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First Writes at the Dundee Book Festival



Come and join Gillian Best, Ever Dundas and me for a morning of debut fiction in Dundee. We’ll be singing siren songs about our novels, answering your bookish questions and signing your newly bought or proffered books. It’s a rather bargainous £3, so less than the price of a fancy cup of coffee.  What better way to spend a Saturday morning?


From the Dundee Literary Festival website, here’s what you can expect:


In Flesh of the Peach, Scottish First Book of the Year winner Helen McClory paints a beautiful and painful portrait of a woman’s unravelling, combining exquisite, and at times experimental, prose with a powerful understanding of the effects of unresolved loss.


The Last Wave by Gillian Best is a wholly authentic, tragicomic portrait of family life as it is buffeted by sickness, intolerance, anger, failure and regret, soaked in empathy and salt water.


Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in Ever Dundas’s extraordinary debut Goblin, an utterly beguiling historical tale with an unforgettable female protagonist at its centre.


When: Saturday 21st October, 10am
Where: Bonar Hall
Tickets: £3, concession £2


Still unsure? Check out some Goodreads reviews:


The Last Wave


Flesh of the Peach


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The Unsung Letter No. 40

This week’s Unsung Letter gets graphic with a Hollywood horror inspired double feature of graphic novels, presented by Ever Dundas:


Autumn is the time of year I gravitate towards comics, in large part because the comics I read are usually horror; they suit the shifting melancholy light, the smell of decay and burning wood, the early dusk. It’s been my autumn ritual to re-read the Charles Burns oeuvre ever since I first came across his work via Black Hole’s stunning art, brilliant depiction of messed up teendom, and lashings of body horror. Black Hole is Burns’ most famous, so I’m going to give a little love to one of his other comics [redacted]


Find out which graphic novels Dundas has picked here


Subscribe to The Unsung Letter here – for weekly missives of brilliant essays by writers and book lovers on underpraised works by living authors. Every week brings something new that you may not have heard of, but that might change your life (in some small literary way, or perhaps deliver a grand epiphany – why not find out?)

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The Unsung Letter No. 39

This week in The Unsung Letter Ryan Vance speaks on a novel of memory and a kind of unseeing:


When reading, all I experience is the printed form of words on the page in front of me, and I find it difficult to totally lose myself in fictional worlds so familiar to our own. So you can keep your meandering realism, your airport thrillers, your meticulous historical memoirs. Give me something so unlikely it sounds ridiculous, even demented, if not outright impossible. Give me something unimaginable. Because for me, literally everything is.


Read more here, and subscribe to The Unsung Letter if you have not yet – the letters are on a different book in print by a living author and by a different book lover/critic every time. You won’t want to miss a one, as each brings its own joys and unexpected emotional connections, and of course another contender for your to-be-read pile.

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Dreaming Singular Instant Dreams

Being a big fan of Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky’s polaroids (which you can see some of here) and of instant pictures in general, I’m posting some of my own snaps here, taken in Scotland and in Canada (around Banff and BC) and one in the north of England.

While Tarkovsky is in another world, I still enjoy the process of taking mine, on a camera bought the year I was born. I wish the film was cheaper – £18 for a pack of 8 makes this an expensive hobby, and one I can only indulge in after birthday and Christmas gifts of film. But once I have them, they are there, haunted the way these images always are by a sense of their fragility and uniqueness, though now of course with a scanner they are not quite that –

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The Unsung Letter No. 38

Despite several Booker nominations, and other awards, she doesn’t nearly get enough praise. Her most recent novel, [redacted] was a dystopian novel, a concise history of Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios, and an experiment in structure and layout, and yet it feels like it’s gone under the radar somewhat. Yet she doesn’t feel like a cult novelist either (Booker nominations will do that I suppose). Her books couldn’t be more different from one another (her last three have been a romantic comedy, a (non-fictional) novel about an Indian guru, and a dystopian sci-fi), and I wonder if that has something to do with it. People don’t know what they’re going to get from her.

A mysteriously much-accoladed but oddly under-the-radar novelist gets The Unsung treatment this week by Daniel Carpenter. Check the whole thing out here, and sign up here for a weekly missive by a different writer/book lover on an underpraised work by a living author.

As sometimes happens when I am fiddling with links early in the morning, I put the wrong book in the buy-here link (though I think possibly you should buy and read that too?) so here’s where to get the book mentioned in the letter (no peeking until you’ve read that first)

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The Unsung Letter No. 37

This week, a book about gender upheaval, sung out by Anya Johanna DeNiro –


…a novella that shakes the rust off the machinery of post-apocalyptic contagion tropes, and brings to life something startlingly new about gender, about friendship, and most importantly the stories trans women tell each other to stay alive.


Read more here.

Now, when I was putting links into the draft to send out, the author’s website wasn’t loading, so I had to use another link (to Bookdepository) so that at least there was one option. In case you would like to support them directly (and why wouldn’t you?) you can hop over to their website and purchase the book there, handy for digital downloads (and having a pay-what-you-want arrangement. Bonus). Check it out here.

Sign up to The Unsung Letter for a weekly missive, written by a different book lover each time, singing the praises of an undersung work by a living author.

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Podcast – at the EIBF 2017


In August I appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival alongside Meena Kandasamy – we spoke about Flesh of the Peach, When I Hit You, violence, womanhood, identity, feminism in the west and in India – and had some brilliant questions from the chair, Lee Randall, and the audience.  If you didn’t get the chance to attend, or just fancy listening again, you can now hear it here (on itunes) or here (on the main EIBF site)

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