the lives ofSethc. Paul I). and Denver. Excellent.

I The Mystery of William Shakespeare (‘harles ()gburn ((‘ardinal £7.99) Falstafl'ian girthed life of ()or Wullie by a thesis student turned sceptic after 12 years infested in research. Be thankful it‘s an abridged version. I Antonia Saw the Oryx First Maria 'I’homas(Serpent's ’I‘ail £7.95) A ‘staying on' in Africa novel. updating Dinesen's Out of Africa. which deals honestly and sensitively with the concerns facing post-colonial Kenya. I Factotum; Post Office; Women ('harles Bukowski (£3.09 L& £4.99 Allison and Busby) 'I‘he ('hinaski trilogy. Low life. short sentences. limited vocabulary: much better than they sound.

I Very Heaven Edited by Sara Maitland (Virago £4.95) 'I‘wenty five

women look back on the (tIIS and reflect on the Pill. minis. sex. drugs and the Beatles. ()ften slight and uneven in quality but it catches the tone ofthe times and is lifted out of the ordinary by the likes of Barbara (‘astle and Angela (‘arter whose individuality illumines what was in danger of becoming a testament of ewes.


I Agnes Owens and Alison Fell the two Scottish contributors to a collection ofstories called 'l'lzeSei'en


John Prebble is a doughty ex-journalist who tackles history with the relentless and dogged determination of a professional investigator. He must frequently be confronted by ignorance as huge as mine on matters historical and he presumably responds to the unfettered in the same stalwart, tolerant way.

His latest excursion into Scottish history is ‘The King‘s Jaunt' which monitors events preceding and surrounding the first visit to Scotland by a British monarch in two hundred years. The subject may seem slight, but Prebble believes that George lV's visit was axiomatic. ‘The visit to me was the turning point in Highland history. It took on a totally new identity which has bedevilled it ever since. My feeling is that Scotland had been trying to find an identity since the Treaty of the Union and had never got a very satisfactory one. It was at this point, with some spurious alchemy on the part of Walter Scott and others, that the country was merged into one. It took on . the identity of the Highlands-with the plaid as the national dress, and the pipes as the national instrument.‘

Prebble depicts the ‘tartan‘ pageant over which Scott presided with colour and flourish. He ascribes the immediacy of his descriptions to his journalistic background: ‘I was a newspaper man in essence, which used to mean, when I was young, being there and seeing it and reporting it. Sol go there, I see it and I report it. Style is not something you choose —you don‘t go to the supermarket to find the best way to write. If you're a craftsman. you write the way you write best.“

He readily admits that history is largely a matter of interpretation. ‘Some academic historians disapprove ofthe gambles I take. Historians aren’t objective. What they mean is that they don‘t like to step outside their source material by inventing dialogue. Within that format, they make subjective judgements. lfthey were all so objective, why do they quarrel so much with each other? I'm a reporter. I was taught to instinctively be one jump ahead!

Although an Englishman living in Surrey. Prebble has written a number of books on Scottish history, often taking an unusual angle or an over-looked topic. ‘I was staying in Inverness and I went to the battlefield. I got the thought of writing about Culloden not from Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s viewpoint— he‘s one of history‘s greatest bores— but from the viewpoint of those who followed him, willingly and not always willingly.‘

One Scottish reviewer acclaimed Prebble for ‘giving us back our history‘ and for having ‘helped to restore our sense of worth‘. But Prebble is not indulgent about Scottish romanticising of history: ‘Scots have this memory based on the “old enemy, England,“ and the fluid Alliance with France which isn't soundly based on historical fact. The details of the kind of betrayal and treachery that made the ‘45 Rebellion possible are omitted. The Scots produced great traitors. During the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, all the great families in Scotland, with only one known exception, were in the pay of the English. Scottish history is complex and unnerving. It is not a matter of “them and us“. It is not romantic. It is largely about betrayal.‘

The human element, in all its moral and emotional complexities, plays a large part in Prebble’s understanding of history and in his dramatic re-presentation of events. ‘History is very much alive. One shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that just because most historians contrive to make it excessively dull that it is dull.‘ (Kristina Woolnough)

‘The King‘s Jaunt’ is published by Collins at £15.


40-42 8: 17 WEST CROSSCAUSEWAY, EDINBURGH, 031 667 0426

Opening Times: 10am-5.30pm Mon-Sat; 10am-6.30pm Thurs

We are proud to present a signing session with Terry

Pratchett on the release of his

new books:

“MORT” (Corgi £2.99) “WYRD SISTERS” (Gollancz ' £11.95) on Thurs 24th Nov from 5pm to 6pm. '

Booksellers since 179'7

Monday 14 November AGNES ()WENS and ALISON FELL will be reading front their new collection ofshort stories Seven Deadly Sins. 7 for 7.30pm 7 for 7.30pm Wine will be served Wine will be served

)7) Gordon Street, Glasgow Yele/mone: Glasgow 2.2] 0262

Friday 25 November FRANK DELANEY will be reading and signing copies of his new book/I Walk in the Dark A ges

9am—8pm Mon(lay—l’rirlrlv (Jam—5 . .iUpm .S‘alurrlay [2110(m—5pm .S'zmdays‘.‘ It‘ll/I live music 1—2pm

The List ll 24 November I988 61