BEFORE THE BREAK
Thriller writer Frederic Lindsay, whose latest novel was published last month, talks to Sue Wilson about the days belore he began to climb the literary ladden
‘The lirst job I did, alter leaving school, was in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, and when I was twenty I met a girl there, a student; I later married her, but I also decided I’d better get mysell an education. It’s a long time ago now, but in some ways the Mitchell remains my model lor the lite ol books. It was an odd place, entirely stalled by men; I used to sit up on the third iloor, hiding away and reading. I also worked tor a bit as a tram conductor, a ledger clerk and a door-to-door salesman, all to earn money to go to university and get married, which I did at almost the same time.
‘Alter I graduated I taught for live years, then I was twelve years lecturing in a college oi education. The odd thing was that during all that time I’d always, lrom when I was at school, believed I was going to be a novelist, though all I’d published by this stage was poetry in Scots, which as a way at climbing the greasy pole and imposing yourseli on the public Ielt something to be desired. So it occurred to me around that time, that although I knew I was a novelist, nobody else did, and that it might be a good idea to write a book.
‘The dilliculty was, that by temperament, lwasn't able to be the equivalent at a Sunday painter, but at that point the the colleges were shaking stall out, and so I cheerlully let mysell be shook. My wile got a job at a one-teacher school in St Abbs, and we moved there in about 1979. It was what you‘d call a bracing culture shock, because I couldn’t really say to people I was a writer, having not published a book, and a Iishing village isn't exactly a lavourable environment for somebody with no visible means of support. I was working on a book which was very dark and bitter and miserable, largely because I was living in St Abbs, walking about on the Head and brooding on poverty, dying in the gutter and so lorth.
‘I’m really not sure why I ended up writing the kind at books I do, why as a person I'm attracted to this kind or dark material — I think in a way, probably like most writers, I’m slightly evasive about it; it’s a bit like probing into the works oi a watch - you’re always lrightened that you’ll give it a poke and it’ll stop working.’
I A Friend oi Humanity and other stories George Friel (Polygon £7.95). Friel‘s reputation remains small. based as it is on an output of five novels. one unpublished until after his death in 1975. This selection of his stories. their simple. unaffected style capturing much of the flavour of Glasgow domestic life from 'the 30s to the 50s. is therefore a welcome addition. Friel's world of discontented young couples.
POP THE STOLE TAX
I Poll Tax Rebellion Danny Burns (AK Press £4.95) and I Cause to be Proud. John Dickie (Gecko Press £3.50); both available from AK Press. 3 Balmoral Place. Stirling. FK8 2RD. The one positive thing about the Poll Tax was that it united the people ofScotland. England and Wales. At one point there were over a million non-payers in Scotland alone. despite condemnation from all political parties (Greens and SNP apart) press vilification and the criminalisation of non-payment south of the border. 1 Time then for a popular history. and from the formation of local groups in 1987. through ritual burning of registration forms and mass pickets against sheriff's officers. to the 'l‘rafalgar Square
bickering familes a'nd street gossip is often a bleak and grey one - many stories end with characters recognising their mistakes only when it is far too late to rectify them. lt is in the half-dozen post-war tales in particular that the author‘s blend of irony and understatement really blossoms. revealing an acute awareness of the pain in confrontations between generations and sexes. and occasionally. as in ‘An Angel in His l louse' offering hope out of despair. (James Robertson)
demo of 1990 and the ultimate triumph of’l‘hatcher's resignation. Danny Burns celebrates the lot.
An unapologetically partisan account of a people‘s movement from the people’s point of view. the book is free of dull left-wing rhetoric and copiously illustrated with posters and photos. A minor criticism is that it concentrates on Edinburgh and Bristol. but 1 for one can live with that. And I know of a million other folk who’ll agree.
John Dickie's book consists of interviews with ten members of Edinburgh's Broughton lnverleith anti-poll tax group. in which they talk about their reasons for joining. their testimonies given a framework by Dickie's matter-of-fact account of the campaign. living history" at its best. and cause to be proud. indeed.
TEA AND SYMPATHY
I Bailey‘s Cale (iloria Naylor (l-leinemann £14.99) The cafe. sharing a street with a bordello and a pawn shop. draws life‘s ‘Iosers‘ to its doors. within which they spill out their storiesof privation and oppression. The most entertaining is the picaresque tale of the transvestite Miss Maple. the brothel‘s security guard. whose brilliant career as a marketing executive is nipped in the bud by racism. The lyricism of the writing.
echoing the beauty of the blues form. is the main strength of this hard-edged novel. though its disjointed structure. the characters‘ solos linked by little but the setting. prevents it achieving the coherence of her debut work The Women of Brewster Place. In addition. the elements ofChristian mysticism pervading the concluding story. an account of a virgin birth on the street. undermine the gritty. often comic, realism of the earlier tales. making this an oddly unconvincing work from an undoubtedly fine prose stylist. (Alan Rice)
I Immortality Milan Kundera (Faber £5.99) Kundera is a law unto himself - rather than breaking down literary barricades. he seems to have no concept oftheir existence. Here. he welcomes us into the evolution of the novel. this novel. from the moment when a woman‘s gesture provides the inspiration for his heroine. to the final page when he celebrates the book’s completion by sharing a glass ofchampagne with one of his characters. Utterly compulsive.
I K. I I Mao ll Don DeLillo (Vintage £5.99) There‘s no denying DeLillo‘s descriptive audacity. nor his skill at hammering home his current obsessions (in this case . crowds and the political impotence of the writer). But this tale ofa reclusive novelist who becomes embroiled in negotiations with terrorists contains too much literary peacocking and not enough substance. with some of the ‘dialogue‘ defying belief. I Talking ll Over Julian Barnes (Picador £5.99) ‘Quicksilver clever and allusive‘ said The Times; ‘By some way Barnes‘s worst book‘ countered The Guardian. The strange thing is. they‘re both right. Three characters. husband. wife and lover. all with their own distinctive (and somewhat stereotypical) personalities talk straight to the reader and give their own impressions ofa marriage breakdown. I The Lile or Leopold Bloom Peter Costello (Roberts Rinehart £5.99) ‘A novel‘ as the cover somewhat superfluoust proclaims. Costello writes well. for a historian. and gives Joyce‘s hero a plausible pre and post-16June 1904 existence. but there is one recurring thought when reading the book — ‘Why bother‘." Answers on a postcard. I Maxwell’s Fall Roy Greenslade (Simon and Schuster £4.99) [Ex-Maxwell kowtow-er Greenslade vents his spleen to an extent not seen since the days ofVIad the Impaler. All written in the chirpy tabloid style you‘d expect from an ex-Mirror editor. and the sour grape taste is quickly forgotten as revelation after appalling revelation of this corrupt bully-boy is disclosed. (Philip Parr)
I Fay Weldon \‘Vaterstonc's. 45 5(1 Princes Square. 221 965i). \Ved22.7.15pm. Free. One of Britain‘s best-respected female authors reads from and signs copies of her new novel Life Force ( l larper(‘ollins £14.99).
I Cosmopolitan Summer Fiction Roadshow Assembly Rooms. George Street. 220
4348. Wed 22. 7.30pm. £2 (£1 )1 tickets from Watcrstonc’s on (ieorgc Street. A no doubt stylish literary evening hosted by the top-selling women's glossy. with Marsha l lunt. whose second novel Free
(l lamish l lamilton £14.99) has just been published. listher Freud. authorof Hideous Kinky and Pat Barker. author of Regeneration.
I Fay Weldon Vl'aterstone's. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Wed 22. 1pm. Free. ()nc of Britain's best-respected female authors signs copies of her new novel Life Force
I Melvyn Bragg Waterstone's. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Thur 23. 1pm. The TV arts guru and author reads from and signs copies of his latest novel ( 'rysral Rooms (llodder & Stoughton £14.99).
I Michael Moorcock Waterstone‘s. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Fri 24. 7pm. Free. The prolific and highly-respected author will discuss and sign copies ofthc latest instalment in his acclaimed Colonel Pyat series. Jerusalem Commands (Jonathan Cape £15.99).
52 The List 17 — 30 July 1992