M.S. Power, author oi the Children of the North trilogy and recent co-winner oIthe Scotland on Sunday short-story competition, talks to Sue Wilson about his lormer career.

Alterl Iett university, lwent to Calilornia - I had a sister living there at the time - and got a job with West Coast Television, and worked there until we were bought out by a large conglomerate. I started out learning the trade, moving‘camera cables about, then alter about four years I became a producer, which in those days-this was in the 503- also involved writing your own material. 80 that’s really when I started writing although somebody did tell me I wrote a play when l was a child, at school, but i really don’t remember it. It was a marvellous time, lwas there all through the 603, llower-power—l did all those things, llower behind my ear and so on.

When I came back to Europe, I went to Greece tor a holiday, and ended up getting a flat, and one day as l was coming in with the groceries this man ottered to hold my bags while I opened the door. It turned out to be Andreas Papandreou, who ended up as Prime Minister, though at the time his lather Georgos was in power. Andreas was just starting up television in Greece, so between one thing and another I started working on Greek TV, setting it up, really. Then after several years the colonels took over, and anyone who had any Papandreou taint was kicked out.

I came back to England, got married, and one day my good lady wile said to me “for God’s sake lift your leg, lwant to hoover; why don’t you go and do something useful, like write a book?" So I did, that was the first book, and It was turned down by every publisher in London. I sent it back to one who’d seen it about a year belore, and they wrote saying they absolutely loved it, what a pity I hadn‘t sent it to them before. I’ve really done nothing else but write since —l suppose I’m a creature oi habit, and once I got into working tor a fixed time each day, It seemed to become a natural thing to do, and I’ve turned out a book a year ever since.

I’m still at the stage, though, where when people ask me what I do for a living, it takes a huge ettortto say I’m a writer. I usually say I‘m a journalist or something - anything to prevent them saying they’ve never heard of me.

j The history ofthe US civil rights


I The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Scottish Poetry edited by Douglas Dunn (Faber & Faber £17.50 hardback, £7.99 paperback) No individual’s choice will ever satisfy all other would-be editors. and this already somewhat controversial anthology has been the subject of vigorous pre-publication ‘who‘s in/who‘s out?‘ debate. Dunn‘s selection is careful. however, designed to illustrate a story unfolding from John Davidson to Kathleen Jamie, with 59 men and thirteen women represented along the way. The sexual imbalance is no surprise, but what‘s interesting is that women make their appearance at either end of the book, reflecting perhaps a particularly misogynistic atmosphere in the middle decades for which Hugh MacDiarmid, whose work lies at the anthology’s heart, must take some of the blame. In his thoughtful, balanced and civilised

introductory essay, Dunn gives MacDiarmid his due as the driving (and sometimes solitary) force behind the Scottish literary renaissance, but doesn't shy from criticising much of his achievement and legacy.

Dunn makes succinct but considered observations on Scotland’s three languages. the relationship between poetry and politics, and the importance ofa supporting framework (publishing houses, a buying public. a healthy critical debate) for a successful national literature. He seems to want to celebrate a literature currently in good shape, a poetic culture of diversity and growing mutual tolerance. and by and large the book succeeds in this. With a modesty in keeping with the tone of the whole, Dunn (whose own literary journey I from Renfrewshire to Hull and back to Scotland forms an interesting parallel to some of his argument) excludes himself from the collection. (James Robertson)


I Zig Zag Lucy Robertson (Doubleday/Black Swan. £13.99/£4.99) A dark. feisty humour pervades this tale of Zag and the object of her consuming devotion, her aloofelder brother Ziggy. A sense of foreboding is introduced early on when Zag‘s 'cataclysmic‘ birth sets off an unfortunate chain of events ending in dementia, death and frostbite. Exhumed from a childhood distinguished only by its torpor and her guardian‘s fetid breath. Zag and Zig are catapulted


.', s :. r t\‘-‘\'\

into the narrow-minded, racist and stifling world ofexpatriate Kenya. The loneliness and social banishment ofchildhood clings. until Zag finds a friendly haven among the Kenyan servants. from which ensues sexual initiation. scandal and an ending as expected as a kick in the teeth.

Robertson captures beautifully the frustration and petulance of awkward adolescence in a language so taut and zestful that the reader is pulled along by its sheer strength. An impressive debut.

(Ann Donald)


I Praying For Sheetrock Melissa Fay Greene (Seeker & Warburg. £9.99)

movement has been largely told through the narratives of its national

leaders, but politics is not made by those at the top. much as they like to think it is. and Washington might as well have been Mars for all the effect it had on the ‘good ol‘ boys‘ who ran a backward. rural Georgia County as " their own racist fiefdom. This compelling oral history recounts, through wonderfully articulate

: bigoted incidents which sparked the i politicisation ofthe

African-American community.Thc ' book.interestingly.alsoincludes ! L accounts from whites. and is

dignity. (AlanJ. Rice)

first-hand testimonies. the development of a coherent strategy to undermine this control in McIntosh County. describing the ‘benevolent‘ racism that had been working for decades to keep blacks in their place and the blatantly

throughout a compelling narrative of the grass-roots struggle for human



On the boat over from Dublin, Eddie Virago. mohicanned hero of Cowboys and Indians by Joseph O‘Connor (Flamingo, £4.99), is copiously sick. Partly from alcohol poisoning. partly for the shock value. but mostly to impress Marion, a stranger he wants to get off with. Your man Virago is not. it must be said. a very nice person. An egoist and outsider. his only asset is a strong line in bullshit which he utilises to good effect in his attempts to climb in through the back window oftrendy London society. A knowing and funny account ofa modern Dubliner clinging to London‘s underbelly.



‘I need information, I want money and expenses from the syndication deal, I must kill pigs.’ It could only be Hunter S. Thompson, the most outrageous outsider ever to cling to an underbelly. Songs ol the Doomed (Picador, £5.99), the third volume of the Gonzo Papers, slashes out at the usual suspects, eviscerates them with vocabulary and leaves their insides out for all to see. Bourbon and mescaline all round.

Where the good Doctor reflects on the death throes of the American Dream, Charles Maclean records the death of a primitive society, from contact with the outside world. Island on the Edge oi the World (Canongate Classics. £5.95) is the story ofSt Kilda, isolated for over 2000 years and finally evacuated in the 19305. Maclean recounts its history with rare compassion and understanding so that the reader, hypnotised by the island’s violent beauty. could almost believe themselves there.

Censure and censorship all too often come into play when sex is concerned. But where does erotica end and pornography begin? Erotica for Beginners (Writers and Readers, £4.99) is the latest graphic guide from the stable that produced the now out of print Marxfor Beginners. The subject lends itselfwell to the

format, and by eschewing any

potential for nudge-nudge crudity

i but drawing on illustrations from

history. Errol Selkirk has produced an eye-opening guide. (Thom Dibdin)


I Frank Delaney John Smith & Son. 57 ; Vincent Street, 221 7472. Wed 8. 6.30pm. I Free. The broadcaster, journalist and ' authority on Celtic history will be reading from and signing copies ofhis dCbUtnOVCl i The Sins of the Mothers ( HarperCollins, £14.99). I

? Edinburgh

South Bridge. 556 6743. Starts Sat 4.9am. 9 Thousands of books at knock-down prices. E such as the photography collections

~ Morocco down from £20 to £8.99. or the

I Summer Book Sale James Thin. 53—59

Serengeti: Land of Endless Spaces reduced from £25 to £9.99 and The Berbers of

encyclopaedic Wines and Vineyards of France reduced from £20 to £9.99. I Douglas Dunn Waterstone‘s. 83 George |

Street, 225 3436. Tue 7, 7.30pm. Free. The distinguished poet and editor of The Faber Book of 20th Century Scottish Poetry (Faber & Faber. £17.50) is guest of

i honour at the launch party for this new

landmark collection.

l IJeItrey Archer Waterstone's. l3 Princes ; Street. 556 3034. Wed 15. 7pm. Free. The Q newly-ennobled ex-Tory chairman will be

signing copies of his last novel As The Crow Flies (Iiodder & Stoughton . £5.99).

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