Not content with seeing his play The Sailmaker revived during Mayfest. Alan Spence has just brought out his first novel, a tale offour Glaswegians growing up in the 605 and 705. Alastair Mabbott asks the author about Sri Chinmoy, spirituality, and the subconscious.
He’s not one of the hard men of Scottish literature is Alan Spence. though he could. in time. prove to be one ofits heavyweights. A gently-spoken 43 year-old in owlish glasses. his haircut is so severe it gives the impression that he‘s been called an old hippy once too often. and his V-neck sports the kind of pattern that only an old hippy or a New Man would be seen in. I suspect he is probably both.
His first novel. The Magic Flute. follows a celebrated book of short stories. Its Colours They Are Fine. which appeared in 1977. two books of poetry. and two plays. Space In vaders and The Sui/maker. which was premiered at the Traverse in 1982 and was revived by TAG for this year's Mayfest. The novel charts the lives of four boys living in
Glasgow. from the day they volunteer for ﬂute lessons in the hope ofplaying in Orange bands. through the 60s and 70s as they grow apart and lead their very different lives. It could be said that Spence has fallen back on literary convention to make it easy for himself. The four central characters. it has been pointed out to him. split neatly into archetypes. He helpfully repeats them for me.
‘Eddie is the soldier. Brian is the cleric. Tam is the artist and George is the normal man offsetting all of that.‘
To clarify. Eddie is the mad bastard hooligan who joins the army and gets blown to bits in Ulster: Brian is the drifter with literary aspirations who ends up teaching: Tam is the jazz musician who is most
8The List 18— 31 May 1990