BEFORE THE BREAK
Glaswegian-born, Bouglas Stewart is a london lawyer specialising in work lor people with spinal and tread injuries; he also represented the egg industry against Edwina currle during the salmonella controversy. in his spare time he writes thrillers, the sixth oi which, Undercurrent, is published this month by Iagnus. lie talked to Sue Wilson about writs and writing.
' ‘l've often wondered why I chose to go into the law; lrom the age of about thirteen when people aslted what i was going to do, I just said i was going to be a lawyer - I didn’t really know what It involved, and there must be easier ways of making a living. 0n the other hand, it's exciting, quite high- prollle work, with a lot oi travel, so on the whole I Ieel l’rn very lucky.
‘lt’s really only in the last ten years orso-oneolthebeautiesol old age, I suppose - that We been able to cherry-pick the lobs that are most interesting, and the ones where i can really help the clients who are at maximal disadvantage. The salmonella-ln-eggs aﬂalr was an enormous amount oi tun at the time, very exciting - we announced on the line O’CIock News that the writs had been issued, and within hall-an-hour Edwina Currie took the decision to resign.
‘i llrst got the idea of writing when l was at school in Kent; Narnurond lnnes wasoneolourold boys, andhecarne tovlslt. ltlnststrucknre,whata lasclnating lob you have, and I thought then that this would be something I'd get round to doing sometime. I dabbled a little bit at university, and eventually in the mid- 70s I got so bored with christrnas television that l was almost at screalng-polnt, and thought I’d better do something more sensible than sitting there watching Morecambe and Wise - I decided literally overnight that i would get down to writing a book.
‘It can be frustrating having to lit the writing around my other work, but I always look lorward to it, it's sheer escapism, i have a wonderlul time making up stories about exciting places and situations; I love creating .characters and giving them a good than, or a lousy time, blowing them up - whatever i want to do.
“there are times when l leel I’d like to write lull-the, but generally I come into the silica every morning with a springlnmystep, lookinglorwardto trying to clear all the clients’ problems on my desk-we doso rnuch
'worklorpeoplewhoarelnneedoiso muchlegalexpertlse.lworkatStoke htandeville hospital once a week. and you come away irom there Inst ieellng very humble and glad you can wan, so i really look torward to the challenge ol helping those people.’
WEEK- USE or weapons
I Against A liark Background lain M. Banks (Orbit £15.99) Eschewing The Culture’s anarcho-utopia of his previous science ﬁction, Banks allows his imagination free rein over its antithesis: an ancient capitalist civilisation where tax-collectors, religious cults, aristocratic families and lunatic pirates are among those doing battle in the marketplace. into this chaos he casts Sharrow, last in the female line of one of the more disreputable families, on whom the fundamentalist Huhsz have taken out a
one-year hunting licence. To placate the Huhsz will require either Sharrow’s death or her discovery of the last Lazy Gun — the only weapon in the star system with a sense of humour.
Assembling his usual eclectic mix of slightly dysfunctional characters, marginal moralities and electric violence, Banks romps through the tale with his customary disregard for linearity. Apart from Banks’s annoying inability to use four adjectives when he can throw in six, this is a wholly entertaining read. suffused with a superior level of college humour. (Thom Dibdin)
BOOKING AND DIVING
I Pecked to Beath by Bucks Tim Cahill (4th Estate £7.99) Ducks. what ducks? As with Cahill's previous enticingly-named volumes, Jaguars Ripped my Flesh and A
I Wolverine is Eating my Leg. the title has
very little to do with the stories involved. instead there is an engaging array of unconnected tales about his global meanderings. ranging from an often harrowing account of his travels through a post-war Kuwait (dead bodies and burning oil-wells in abundance). his wave-rolling kayak trip in Baja and his
expedition into the previously uncharted depths of the recently-discovered Lechuguilla Cave in the American desert. Soundly written and at times side- splittingly hilarious, Pecked to Death . . . reveals Cahill to be a charismatic and intelligent chronicler of some of the world's weirdest places and wackiest people, and should be essential reading for would-be adventurers and armchair travellers alike. It is refreshing indeed to find that there are still people in the world pursuing madcap exploits and childhood dreams. (Joe Lampard)
I ll Dead Man in lieptlord Anthony Burgess (Hutchison £14.99) it’s 400 years since Christopher Marlowe - playwright, government spy, tobacco addict and unrepenting sodomist — was killed in questionable circumstances in a pub in Deptford. it’s also 53 years since a Luftwaffe bombing raid on Manchester destroyed Anthony Burgess‘s university thesis on the Elizabethan dramatist. The author's enthusiasm for his subject has not, however, diminished over the years: in fact, freed from decades of conﬁnement, it bounds across the page
with the cutting wit and intellectual playfulness that distinguishes the language of the Elizabethan stage. Burgess gives the kiss of life to his dead man of the title. creating in Marlowe a ‘live fast, die young' hero whose restless energy always seems destined to have him explode with a brief, bright intensity on the pages of history. Around the central character, the author’s vibrant prose brings immediacy to a lively period that brims over with political intrigue, religious turmoil and literary genius. A dynamic celebration ofthe life of an unjustly underrated playwright. (Alan Morrison)
Alan Morrison rounds up the year’s best (or nastiest) so tar.
Joe Donnelly just gets better and better. After a brief Irish sojourn in last year’s The Shee, he’s back on home ground with Still life (Century £l4.99). Drawing on a heady mix of ancient powers and natural terrors, he sets the action in a small community adjoining the old Caledonian forest. Building from the point where trees look like tonured souls aching for release, the novel generates a spiralling sense of unease as the potent force of the forest is awakened.
Phil Rickman‘s Crybbe (Macmillan £14.99) possesses similar strengths: a clearly drawn, claustrophobic community, characters you immediately care about. exploitation of current interest in New Age beliefs to give an edge to older superstitions. Rickman‘s brand of Celtic horror is, however, set on the Welsh border and, like the Iey lines which are central to the plot, it exerts a power from beneath the prosc’s surface which pulls the reader along.
Darkest Day by Christopher Fowler (Little, Brown £10.99) is an old- fashioned murder-mystery with splotches of gore. Featuring characters and situations which would be more at home in Christie or Conan Doyle and a crumbling ﬁnger in as many genre pies as possible, it is narrative for pleasure's sake and none the worse for that.
Other honourable mentions go to: Brian Hodge’s Nightlife (Pan £4.99), drug-soaked horror with an environmentally-friendly edge; Narrow Houses (Little. Brown £15.99), edited by Peter Crowther, the kind of uniﬁed short-story collection where individual tales — based on each writer’s personal superstitions — combine and conspire to evoke a wider sense of unease.
I Poetry at Maylest College Club. University of Glasgow, University Avenue. info 334 8058. Fri 21. 8pm. £3 (£2). Bar. Open Circle presents an evening of readings by Alec Lambert. Robert MacDougall, Thom Naim. Denise Smith and Ruth Strauss. I Jimmie Macilregor Waterstone’s, 45/50 Princes Square, 221 9650. Sat 22. 2-3pm. Free. The popular personality and broadcaster will be signing copies of his new book Jimmie MacGregor's Scotland (BBC Books £16.99). I Best of Young British llovelists: the Scottish Connection Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 7521. Tue 25, 7.30pm. £1 (50p). The Granta promotional bandwagon trundles on, as Scotland on Sunday Literary Editor Alan Taylor chairs a reading/discussion session with the Scots authors included in their literary Top Wenty — lain Banks, A.L. Kennedy and Candia McWilliam, plus the Polygon- published Trbor Fischer. I Caryl Phillips Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 7521. The 1. 7.30pm. £1 (50p). The award- winning Caribbean-bom author, another name on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list. reading from his new novel Crossing the River (Bloomsbury £15.99) and discussing his work with Scotland on Sunday Literary Editor Alan Taylor.
I The New Poetry Waterstone’s, 132 Union Street. 221 0890. Wed 2, 6.30pm. Free. Readings by Bill Herbert, Jackie Kay, Liz Lochhead. Kathleen Jamie and Robert Crawford to mark the Scottish launch of the ambitious new collection The New Poetry (Bloodaxe Books £7.95).
.I Poetry Beading Unemployed Workers‘
Centre, Broughton Street, 557 0718. Fri 21, 8pm. £2 (£1). Readings by ‘about six poets’. possibly including Hamish Henderson, plus live music.
I Best of Young British Novelists Waterstone's, 83 George Street. 225 3436. Mon 24, 7.30pm. Free (tickets from branch). Three examples of the creme de la creme (according to Granta) of literary Brits aged under 40 — Trbor Fischer, Candia McWilliam and Adam Mars-Jones — reading from and talking about their work, introduced by the magazine’s editor, Bill Buford.
I Elspeth King Central Library, George [V Bridge, 225 8854. Tue 25. noon. Free. The former curator of Glasgow’s People‘s Palace museum will give an illustrated talk about her new book The Hidden History of Glasgow's Women (Mainstream £l4.99).
I Scottish Arts Council Spring Book AM James Thin, 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Wed 26, 11.30am. Free. Spot the famous names queueing for cheques. I Jenny 11ng a Frances Sherwood James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Wed 26, 7pm. Free. The authors of the recent biography Elizabeth Gaskell
(Faber & Faber £17.50) and the novel Vindication (Phoenix House £14.99). based partly on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, read from their work and talk about women, fiction and biography. I Best of Young British Novelists: The Scottish Connection Waterstone's, l3 Princes Street, 556 3034. Wed 26, 7.30pm. Free (tickets from branch). More from the Granta Top Twenty’s Caledonian contingent, with lain Banks, Philip Kerr and AL. Kennedy reading from and talking about their work. With Pat Kane in the chair, will they get a word in edgeways?
I Management Evening Waterstone's, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Thurs 27. 6.30pm. Free. Talk by editor Malcolm Secret to launch the Pitman Better Business books series. I Joanna Trollope Waterstone's, I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. Tue 1. 7pm. Free. The bestselling author of holiday reading for the middle classes reads from and signs copies of her latest novel A Spanish Lover (Bloomsbury £14.99). I Colin Baxter Waterstone's, 128 Princes Street, 226 2666. Thurs 3, 7pm. Launch of Baxter's latest coffee-table volume Edinburgh (Colin Baxter Publishers £15.95). I Women in Publishing in Scotland Filmhouse. Lothian Road. info 343 2050/557 4571. Free. Monthly meeting (all welcome) featuring Jenni Calder of the National Museum of Scotland and Carol Maconachie of Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries, talking on the theme of ‘Publishing our Heritage‘.
OS The List 21 May—3 June 1993