BEFORE THE BREAK
Sue Wilson talks to Scottish punk/cult author Martin Millar, whose latest novel is published this month, about his humble beginnings.
‘When i left school at seventeen, alter my Highers, my lirst job was as a library assistant in Bishopbrlggs, belore I moved to London and was on the dole lor maybe a year, having tun being a punk and going to lots oi gigs. l was in a iew bands as well, during the early 80s, though never with anybody who ever escaped out oi Brixton.
‘When I got too poor, I used to work lor an industrial temp agency, being sent out to sites or lactories. I worked in the dole oliice in Brixton ior six months, which wasn’t as bad as you might think-l only took iresh claims, so when people had problems alterwards it wasn’t me they came and shouted at. My worst ever job was doing twelve-hour night shifts in a warehouse, sorting and loading mail tor a private mailing company; my last job was as a clerk ior lLEA; while I was there I started getting my books published, so I eventually Ieli about three years ago.
We always written, I’d written three books belore I was twenty-tour, starting when I was about iourteen. I wrote the lourth one when l was working at one oi these very tedious jobs, and I wrote It very consciously to try and get published, change things tor the better, though it took anotherthree years to iind a publisher. .
‘When it was eventually accepted, i went around telling everyone at work, but as it was the engineering department-l did the invoices lor all the people who went round iixing
,school heating systems, not a very literary environment- no one was all that impressed. i kept the job on lor a while because i needed the money, but then I was getting interviewed by all these style magazines and I just lelt really stupid, being interviewed by The Face and working as a clerk, so I leit and was really poor tor a while. I still never have enough money; my one ambition is to earn enough money to buy a house and have a nice place to write. I don’t have any aspirations towards literary status.
‘l’m playing a lot oi traditional music these days, tin whistle, liddle and mandolin, there are lots oi Scottish and Irish musicians around In Brixton. I’ll probably grow old in Ireland, playing music in pubs-that seems like a nice way to go.’
IEEHEEHEIIIIIIIIIII FASHION VULTURES
I Generation x: Tales ior an Accelerated Culture Douglas Coupland, Abacus (£6.99) Out in Palm Springs, amidst decrepit Californians with retro lives, Andy, Claire and Dag swap ﬂeeting thoughts, mix fashions and chill out round the pool. Thirty-nothings;
children of parents whose marriages ‘
were made in the 505, they are post-yuppie, post-hippy, post-eco-freaks, on the run from their mid-twenties crises and the
me-generation. They have nowhere to go but a series of cool moments and a post-post-modernist lifestyle.
We are out in Pynchon’s Vineland territory, newly mapped for the three-minute culture. A melange of spunky little fables ofthe dispossessed middle-class, packaged in a cynic‘s whine with a glossary of ‘attitude roadsigns’ in the margin. Self-indulgent escapism though it may seem, this is a compelling and funny view from a pitstop in the American rat-race; exposing the asinine vacuity of a lifestyle sad enough to call bumper stickers a culture. (Thom Dibdin)
I The Manufacture oi Scottish History ed. Ian Donnachie and Christopher Whatley and Cultural Weapons Christopher Harvie (both Polygon, £8.95 and £7.95) Latest offerings in the Determinations series, the first of which, an essay collection, spends too much time listing who wrote what, when its analysis of the construction of historical myth, as in Christopher Whatley‘s enlivening contribution, is far more interesting. Accusing the Scottish historical establishment of complacency in its treatment of the people as ‘stoical and acquiescent’, Whatley cites as evidence 18th century food riots and the clashes with excise officers following the post-1707 rise in smuggling. John Foster takes us through the reinterpretation of Red Clydeside, Charles Withers takes a fresh look at the creation of the Highland myth, noting that the Highland/Lowland divide did not exist before 1300, while Joy Hendry rounds on Scottish historians for their neglect of women — somewhat ironic, she being the only female
The second volume is an optimistic examination of aspects of European — specifically German - - political practice which might benefit an independent Scotland. After 9 April, Harvie’s prognostications, written between 1989 and 1990, look distinctly dated - borrowing ideas from German local government seems like so much pie-in—the-sky with the Tories back in St Andrew‘s House. Overall, an interesting rummage around a self-conscious academic’s laptop files, but not, unfortunately, a book to file under ‘urgent‘. (Keith Davidson)
I Air and Angels Susan Hill (Mandarin, £3.99) it should be easy to despise Hill- middle-class to her sling-backs, writing about relationships suspended in the ether rather than grounded in the real world - ifonly she didn‘t write with such depth and emotion. and didn‘t make something as simple as a middle-age infatuation so intensely moving.
I Wideboy Simon Nye (Penguin . £4.50) Nye. sometime TV writer, creates a character straight out of Fools and Horses. only much funnier. Frank Stubbs is Daley and Del Boy rolled into one, and though the novel is one ofthose rose-tinted. round the old joanna. East End nostalgia trips, it‘s perceptive and sharp enough to entertain ratherthan nauseate.
I The Indoor Boy Antony Sher (Penguin. £4.99) A novel by a South African Jew with bags of money about a South African Jew with bags of money. Literary imagination lives? It‘s an open question whether Antony Sher shares Leon Lipshitz's predilection for fisting, coke and Aryan Boers, but an open mind is certainly essential before venturing into this sordid scene.
I Salem to Moscow: An Actor’s Odyssey Brian Cox (Methuen, £8.99) lfCox. precursor to llopkins‘s Hannibal. has always struck you as an unconventional actor. prepare for some shattered illusions as you wade through piles of ‘wonderfully gifted' colleagues, ‘tremcndously hard‘ early years and on and on: LAMDA succeeds again in turning ordinary Dundonian into dahling luvvie.
I The Adventures oi Lord lily Boatrace Bruce Dickinson (Pan £3.99)The ex-public schoolboy.international standard fencer and iron Maiden front-man spews up a bookful of coprophiliac sluts, men with fifteen-inch willies and more phlegm than you could shake a stick at. Utterly repellent and unfunny, it‘s enough to make the wettest liberal scream for censorship.
I Mayiesi Please see separate listing for Mayfcst events. I Cencrastus Evening Scotia Bar. 112 Stockwell Street. 552 8681. Tue 26, 8pm. Free. An evening of music, poems and songs hosted by the Scottish literary magazine, with guests including Tom Leonard, George Gunn, Thom Nairn, Pat Morrisey and Eileen Penman.
I Fitzroy MacLean Waterstone's, 45/50 Princes Square, 221 9650. Fri 29, 1pm. Free. The war hero and former MP will sign copies of his sumptuously illustrated new book All the Russias (Viking£25).
I Words and Music Samuel Dow's, 68 Nithsdale Road, info 946 6043/424 3764. Mon 1, 8pm. 50p. Readings and discussion with the Woodside Writers and featured writer Bobby Christie, plus music from The Bain Brothers Band.
I Marlin Miller Waterstone‘s, 45/50 Princes Square, 221 9650. Wed 3, 7. 15pm. Free. The Scottish cult author will read from and sign copies of his new novel The Good Fairies of New York (Fourth Estate, £8.99).
I Katherine Kerr Waterstone‘s, 132 Union Street, 221 0890. Wed 3, 1pm. Free. The popular fantasy writer will read from and sign copies of her latest novel Time of Omens (HarperCollins,£8.99).
I Shiatsu Evening James Thin, 53-59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Wed 27, 7pm. Free. Elaine Liechti, author of Health Essentials: Shiatsu (Element, £4.99) will give a demonstration and talk about the ancient Japanese acupressure-massage technique.
I Fitzroy MacLean Waterstone's, 83 George Street, 225 3436. Thurs 28. 7.30pm. Free. The war hero and former MP will talk about and sign copies ofhis sumptuously illustrated new book All the Russias (Viking, £25).
I Edinburgh Writers‘ Association Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, 220 4349. Fri 29, 8pm. £2 (£1). Words and music with a Scottish! European theme, plus guest author.
I Pomegranate Reading Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, 220 4349. Sat 30, 3pm. £1 (50p). Stories and poems from the local women writers’ group.
I Women Writers’ Workshop Adult Learning Project, 184 Dairy Road,337 5442. Booking essential. Sun 31,2—6pm. Free. Discussions on the theme of Scottish women writers and Europe, led by Janet Paisley.
I Katherine iterr Waterstone’s, 13 Princes Street, 556 3034. Tue 2, 7pm. Free. The popular fantasy writer will read from and sign copies of her latest novel Time of
Omens (HarperCollins £8.99).
I Proiile ot Black Women’s Writing Theatre Workshop, Hamilton Place, 2265425. Tu'e 2, 7pm. £2.50. Seminar led by contemporary black women writers on women‘s creativity and cultural processes. I Scottish Arts Council Spring BookAwards James Thin, 53-59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Wed 3, 11.30am. Free. Pat-on-the-back time for the cream of Scotland's current writing crop.
I European Poetry in Scotland Italian institute, 82 Nicolson Street, 6682232. Wed 3, 7.30pm. £3 (£2.50). Readings ina variety of languages, plus a display from the National Library.
I Euro Culture Southside Community Centre, Nicolson Street, 667 7365. Booking essential. Thurs 4, 10am—1pm. Free (creche £1). informal creative writing workshop with novelist Alan Spence, exploring the effects of ‘Euroculture‘ on ordinary people.
I Martin Millar Waterstone‘s, 13 Princes Street, 556 3034. Thurs 4, 7pm. Free. The Scottish cult author will read from and sign copies of his new novel The Good Fairies of New York (Fourth Estate, £8.99).
I Michael Dibdin and TIm Sebastian Waterstone’s, 83 George Street, 225 3436. Free. The two top spy-thriller writers will read from and sign copies of their latest novels- Dibdin’s Cabal (Faber & Faber £13.99) and Sebastian‘s Exit Berlin (Bantam, £13.99).
66 The List 22 May — 4 June 1992