Fans of American indie stalwarts The Mountain Goats already know that frontman John Darnielle is one of that country’s finest lyricists, unfolding songs that more often play like short stories with poetic economy and an empathetic eye over the course of 14 albums since the mid-1990s. It should come as no surprise then, but a pleasant revelation all the same, to discover that Darnielle has written a novel, entitled Wolf in White Van, which will be published in October by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the USA and Harper Collins in Canada.
In news we would have covered last week were we not recovering from dental surgery and as such too hopped up on goofballs to string together a coherent sentence, the line-up has been announced and tickets are now on sale for the ninth year of Aye Write!, Glasgow’s annual springtime literary festival, which this year runs 4-12 April. As usual, the programme offers an eclectic mix of well-regarded local talent and popular authors from further afield, participating variously in straightforward interviews, politically-engaged debates and workshops.
Most immediately attention-grabbing amongst proceedings is Remembering Iain Banks, an evening of readings and reminiscences commemorating the beloved late author of The Crow Road and The Bridge featuring Ken Macleod, Ron Butlin and others, which will include the first public airing of some of Banks’ hitherto unpublished poetry. Other widely popular Scots in attendance throughout the festival include Alasdair Gray, launching his autobiographical Of Me and Others, national Makar Liz Lochhead granting An Audience With herself, Denise Mina, Sophie Hannah and Alex Gray discussing the longevity of serialised crime fiction, Ewan Morrison presenting a glimpse into the process of adapting his novel Swung into a film, William McIlvanney casting an eye over his long career, James Robertson talking Robert the Bruce and, very excitingly, the great Tom Leonard and Tam Dean Burn presenting Leonard’s new Scots translation of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
From further afield, amongst many others, come infamous music biz lifer Jazz Summers and his autobiography, Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange author Joanne M Harris, erstwhile Pub Landlord Al Murray as himself, and House of Leaves author Mark Z. Danielewski, who joins Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet, to discuss the cutting edge of the novel.
Also running throughout the festival is a strand of events entitled The Books That Made Me, which sees well-kent faces from diverse occupations recount the literary influences that have shaped their lives: politician Tam Dalyell, TV presenter Gail Porter, former half of Arab Strap, inaugural Scottish Album of the Year winner and essential follow on Twitter Aidan Moffat, Booker winner A S Byatt, sculptor Alexander Stoddart, theologian Richard Holloway and comedian Frankie Boyle are all participating.
Anyone who can’t wait for the festival proper to start and has little people to keep entertained at the weekend should know that Wee Write!, the grown-up festival’s child-oriented precursor, takes place this coming Saturday, 8 March, with events including storytelling from Debi Gliori, a celebration of 25 years of David McKee’s Elmer books and a further celebration of 50 years of Roald Dahl’s immortal Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
When Iain Banks died of cancer last June at the cruelly young age of 59, it was widely assumed that The Quarry – the novel whose first reviews started to appear on the day of his death – would be his last published work. This past weekend, however, on what would have been Banks’ 60th birthday, his long-time publisher Little, Brown announced that it will publish a book of Banks’ poetry – much of it never before published, much less collected – in February of 2015. The book will also feature work by Banks’ close friend Ken MacLeod – himself an author – who will serve as the collection’s editor. MacLeod says ‘I’m delighted that Little, Brown is going to publish Iain’s poems, which he wrote over many years. They show a wise and witty mind at work, rational and humane and in love with the world.’ No different from the rest of Banks’ corpus, then.
Since you’ve probably heard already about JK Rowling’s second novel as Robert Galbraith, allow us instead to draw your attention to a more long-awaited book whose forthcoming publication will prove just as exciting as Rowling’s to a certain crowd (albeit probably a significantly smaller crowd). Samuel Fuller – reporter, Purple Heart recipient, pulp novelist and, most famously, writer and director of such bracingly tough films as Shock Corridor, Pickup on South Street, The Naked Kiss and The Big Red One – died in 1997 aged 85, having quit America for France after the release of his 1982 film White Dog and last directed a film full stop in 1990. Fuller wrote novels throughout his life, from his time as a journalist pre-World War II through to the posthumous publication of his autobiography, A Third Face, in 2002. He was capital letters A Fascinating Man. Now, the Hard Case Crime imprint (published through Titan Books) has announced that it is to release Fuller’s “lost” novel, 1993’s Brainquake, on September 9th. This is capital letters Exciting.
Frankly, it can be hard enough finding stuff to blog about the rest of the year*, so if you think BookMachine is going to continue posting over the festive period when everyone who would do the stuff we’d blog about is off not doing stuff we’d blog about, well, you can go stuff yourself. As the publishing industry winds down for 2013, so will we – the site is coming offline for some maintenance work over the Christmas holidays, so if you want to get one last look at the many and varied ways I’ve pissed off Ayn Rand fans this year, for example, or my almost subliminal attempts at shoehorning my own interests into posts that are meant to be about publishing before the calendar turns to 2014, now’s the time to do that. Thanks to all of you from all of us for reading, happy Festivus an’ aw that, and we’ll see you back here in January, as long as none of us suffer from chronic eye injuries over the next couple of weeks.
*(If I’ve learned one thing from this past year, it’s that not everyone reads these posts with the deadpan inflection I imagine and that I should make clear when I’m joking, so consider this your notification of that.)
Helen Fielding’s third Bridget Jones novel – Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – has returned to the top of the UK hardback fiction charts for the first time since its release in October. The long-awaited book, published 14 years after prior instalment The Edge of Reason, spent three weeks at number one following its release, fuelled by Super Thursday first day sales of more than 46,000 copies across all formats. Whilst it hasn’t quite maintained that level of success (if it had, it would currently be nearing the 3,000,000 copies sold mark), presumably the onslaught of the Christmas shopping season has had some part to play in its selling 23,000 copies this past week.
Morrissey’s Autobiography – the singer’s self-explanatory memoir, released with some degree of fanfare by Penguin Classics in the UK in October – has already met with great success on these shores, despite (or, given the devotion of his fanbase, perhaps because of) the fact that the book was seemingly largely unedited from his original manuscript, a brief acknowledgement given to Penguin’s Helen Conford for being ‘a steady scrutineer’ the only suggestion that anyone at the publisher was even allowed to read the book before it went to press. Several sources, however, are now reporting that that is emphatically not the case for the book’s American release through Penguin imprint G.P. Putnam’s Sons, with all details of Morrissey’s relationship with photographer Jake Owen Walters apparently removed from the text. A photo of Walters as a young boy present in the UK edition is also nowhere to be found.
Though foundational indie rock heroes Pixies have seemingly been doing everything in their power of late to alienate long-term fans – parting ways with iconic, indispensable bassist Kim Deal in a Welsh branch of Caffè Nero, finding a somewhat agreeable replacement in The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck only to drop her unceremoniously after a couple of months, releasing their first new material in 22 years only for it to turn out pretty depressingly bad – acolytes of their still untouchable brand of weirdo sci-fi surf-rock pop-candy assault may perk up at the news that frontman Black Francis is working on a graphic novel that sounds very him.
As part of Book Week Scotland – which ran throughout last week from 25 November to 1 December – the Scottish Book Trust has revealed the final result of its public vote on the 10 best Scottish novels of the past 50 years, drawn from a previously released longlist. Whether due to the current resurgence of interest in all things Irvine Welsh or simply because of its indelible mark on the Scottish cultural landscape these past 20 years, Trainspotting claims the top spot, a triumph made no less welcome by its predictability and one that presumably prompts another sigh of relief for Rebel Inc.
The Galley Club – the not for profit London-based social organisation for those who work in publishing – holds its last event of the year this coming Wednesday, 4 December, in its usual venue of The George in Strand, with proceedings kicking off at 6.30pm. Its speaker this time round will be Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, giving a talk entitled “That Was The Year That Was – 2013 in retrospect and 2014 contemplated”. Entry is £5 for non-members, and a buffet and wine are included in the price.