Edinburgh-born novelist David

Donachie, whose latest ‘seaiaring whodunnit' is published next month,

; talks to Sue Wilson about his

pre-writlng career.

‘I went to work in my lather's painting

and decorating business when l was

lourteen, butl neverlinished my apprenticeship, though I did once help to decorate Sean Connery’s mother’s

: llat— he was visiting just alter he’d

done the first Bond iilm, and his mother

phoned up in a panic, so we had to go

and paint this but ’n’ hen in


‘Alterthat I went to work in the UniRoyal rubber mill, making tascias for cars, the plastic bits on top oi the dashboard. I went oil to Germany for a bit, just bumming around, then came back to London, where I worked in a glass iactory one time, when I needed some money for Christmas, doing double shifts inspecting jam-jars Ior about three months; I reckon I sorted about a quarter oi a million jars while I was there.

‘Mostly the jobs I had in London were in the theatre; I did backstage work on and oil tor about twenty years, Iirst in the Palladium, then the National. That world breeds its own anecdotage, most oI which is very boring, though Laurence Olivier once hailed me a taxi, and I’ve danced with Rudoli Nureyev. It was at the National, I suppose, that I started to get ambitious, started trying to write plays, very unsuccessfully.

We wanted to write for a long, long time, and the only thing that stopped me was sheer laziness and drink; it

always seemed a better idea to go to the pub ratherthan sit and stare at a wall. But about five years ago I sat ; down to write a radio play, and thirty days later I had a lour-hundred-page ; novel. That was altered Ior by Hutchinson, but I turned them down because they weren't uttering enough money. Dattest thing I’ve ever done— that book’s still waiting to be pubnshed.

‘So then it was a case of looking around for a gap in the market, and even a iew years ago new novelists were iinding it tough to get published, so it had to be genre iiction, because I reiuse to starve in a garret. The only thing I thought i could do was crime Ilction, and I had written a terrible pilot

for a television series, set aboard a . ship, so I just took the characters irom that. It wasn’tthat big a deal when I heard it’d been accepted - having had an offer beiore, I knew I could do it. The best moment was sitting in a : restaurant, with somebody paying ior

an expensive meal, and signing a contract; that was the high point.’ i_________.-_. __

Guarani Ind an Lady by Brazilian photographer Mauro Goncalves, just one oi 214stunnig,

startling and shocking images collected in Your World (Harvill £14.99), the choiceirom 32.000 entries to the United Nations Environment Programme photography competition, in which contestants were asked to express their visions ol the werld, either in celebration or

condemnation at its present condition.’

I Four Gardens In One Deni Bown (HMSO £18.95) Charged with producing a full colour, glossy. ZOO-page guide to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and its three outposts. it would be hard not to produce a magnificent book. But going beyond the coffee table needs a bit more dedication. which Bown

: has obviously lavished upon this


It is not. and does not pretend to be. a catalogue of the gardens. although the latter part is dedicated to an extensive description of the major beds and collections at Inverleith. Dawyck. Benmore and Logan. The photos and informed comment will add to any reader‘s enjoyment ofthe gardens.

In line with the increasing commercial pressures on the Botanics. Bown has made the work of the gardeners. botanists and plant collectors sexy. Their history is fascinating and their battle to

preserve our botanic heritage in the face ofenvironmental degradation is obviously one which not only produces beautiful books. but is also of great practical importance. (Thom Dibdin)


I I Am The Clay Chaim Potok

(Heinemann. £13.99) Given the Korean setting of Potok‘s latest novel. it would appear that he has decamped from his beloved Jewish territory. so sensitively charted in The Chosen. Anyone familiar with his work. however. will recognise this self-imposed exile as a screen, behind which his text remains essentially unchanged. For all intents and purposes the characters could be Jewish. and the novel’s

central strand. a Korean boy's struggle for survival. is simply another metaphor for exodus. a theme invented by Jewish history. It is a sad yet hopeful tale. suggesting that suffering brings strength. while acknowledging that survival necessitates change. The double-edged motifof America as paradoxical harbinger ofdeath and life is overdoing things. but otherwise this is a pertinent tale for our times asking simply how people continue to function in the midst of catastrophe. (Aaron Hicklin)

' in the case of horror-fiction lovers,

Alan Morrison’s chiller choice

With the same balance of fine prose and engaging sense ofwonder that has distinguished Clive Barker‘s recent epics. The Thief of Always (HarperCollins £9.99) finds a young boy swept off to an isolated house whose magical perfection gradually becomes disturbing. The illustrations by Barker himself further guide the mind‘s eye through the imagination of this most visual of writers. Not a children's book as such. but a book for the child in us all

that child tends to be more unruly than most.

In Prophecy (Gollancz £14.99). Peter James proves again if proof were needed his expertise at generating that electric jolt when the supernatural brushes against the everyday. Here he builds sheer terror from accumulated coincidence. closely tied to the early uncertainty ofa love affair. At the

other end of the spectrum is Shaun Hutson. master ofthe three word i sentence and five word paragraph. 1 His Heathen (Little Brown £14.99) 3 a shabby story of a woman searching for the book which holds the secret of her husband’s mysterious death can be likened to a novice skier on his first big run: fast and furious. but no sense ofcontrol.

Ramsey Campbell continues to exemplify horror fiction‘s traditional strengths in his latest short-story collection. Waking Nightmares (Little Brown £13.99). containing i several pieces which build inexorably to a sublime pitch of horror. leaving a final. terrifying image burning on your retina. Finally. Elizabeth Massie’s Sineuzer (Pan £4.99) marks the year‘s most devastating debut. In a small American backwoods community. religious fervour has mutated to the extent that the embodiment ofevil is thought to be a skulking. solitary figure who eats the sin food offerings from the chests of dead bodies. Never before has the claustrophobia of an unbalanced. but frighteningly realistic. society been so sharply described.

(Alan Morrison)

88 The List 18 December 1992 14 January 1993