THE WRITE STUFF
Author Graham Swift has just netted £20,000 and the title of Booker Prize winner, for his novel Last Orders. Ann Donald speaks to a man who enjoys the simple things in life.
Kaine Graham Colin Swift. The middle name is not my favourite.
Previous job: Various jobs have included security guard. hospital potter and part-time teacher.
Route to becorning a writer I think I realised I wanted to become a writer at a very young age. I read and I got excited at the magic of writing. I studied English at university and in the latter stages of being a student I just started to write.
Daily routine If I‘m working on something then I'll make an early start because I‘m a bit of a 5am bird. Theoretically I‘ll write from 6am till midday and then have my rest and recreation and go out to play. as it were. It doesn‘t always happen like that in real life. though. Until Water/and was published I taught full time. before managing to give up teaching altogether in I984. Touch wood, I’ve never had to teach again.
Inﬂuences The biggest influence was what I ﬁrst read as a child: adventure stories. fairy tales etc. Life is my biggest inﬂuence. and certain teachers I had at school.
Ambitions I don‘t have any. other than continuing to be a writer. As a person I enjoy the simple things in life. With this cheque (for the Booker Prize) obviously there are opportunities. I've done a lot of travelling through my books in the past and this will enable me to go back to some of my favourite places for sheer pleasure. I'll revisit places I ﬁrst went to when researching my books.
Fears Other than the usual fears that go with living then it‘s the usual writers' neuroses of running out of things to say.
Income I’m not sure that‘s a fair question . . . so long as I have enough to keep me going from one book to the other. then I‘m quids in. How's that? Last Orders is published by Picador at £15.99
IZEIEII_ 0 DAY
I nestles: Itatlon Alan Clements, Kenny Farquharson and Kirsty Wark (Mainstream £14.99) Since the break- up of the British Empire. devolution has been the critical question in Scottish politics — and what a question! The political parties have fudged it for decades. sometimes promising one thing while doing another. and even the Scots themselves seem unable to arrive at a consensus.
And yet the natives are undoubtedly restless. In this sense Restless Nation published to coincide with the
television series created by Wark and her husband Alan Clements — is a basic but useful examination ofthe issue. It is a kind of ‘devolution for beginners‘ charting the ebb and flow of Scottish nationalist feeling since the war. Yet what emerges most clearly and paradoxically from this overview is how deeply Scotland is bound into the English system. and how crucial the Scottish vote is in Westminster. particularly for the parties of the left. Given this. Blair's recent fumbling is hardly surprising. Which leaves us back where we started. As Hamlet might have said: ‘To d or not to d — that is (still) the question.‘ (Marc Lambert)
I The Killing Spirit Jay Hopler (Canongate £8.99) Although subtitled ‘An Anthology of Assassins‘. this shon story collection is nothing to do with the drugged-up Hashishine. and everything to do with the kind of lonely hit man who gets up close and impersonal to ply his gruesome trade. As the killers stalk the fringes of society. so the writing stalks that lonely place where men become failures through lack of money. failure of love and loss ofego. It is haunting ground to
explore and the greats are well represented by Ernest Hemingway. Graham Greene and Ian McEwan.
But the joy is in the unexpected and two pieces stand head and shoulders above the rest. Thomas Perry's ‘The Butcher's Boy' and Patricia Highsmith's ‘Ripley‘s Game' — filmed as The American Friend — although only extracts. leave you tantalised and wanting more. Here are two killers who. like Banquo's murderers in Macbeth. arc disaffected. weary with life and have nothing left to lose. (Thom Dibdin)
visit to BJiiIiKLAND
I Bibrlrgraphy Martin Aston (Simon & Schuster £10.99) Big print and typographical carelessness point towards this unauthorised biography of Iceland’s greatest export as being just another example of a disposable quickie rock book. Which would be a little unfair.
Working hard to make up for lack of access to his subject. Aston has achieved much by canvassing friends and collaborators and raiding the cuttings libraries. Doing his best (not always successfully) to separate fact
from Bjork‘s exaggerated self- mythologising. he comes up with a lot of interesting material. especially about the Icelandic days. Naturally. he's forced to speculate about the tnore protected area of her love life. but the fact that Bjork's ex-lovers are disinclined to kiss 'n' tell says much
I about her in itself.
No great cognitive leaps. then. but by being the ﬁrst to draw all these threads together Aston has provided a serviceable overview for those who were looking elsewhere when The Sugarcubes ﬁrst hit these shores. (Alastair Mabbott)
I The liars’ Club Mary Karr (Picador £6.99) Widely praised upon hardback publication. this brutally honest memoir of a dysfunctional upbringing in an industrial East Texas town is an uncomfortable read which Karr bravely offers for public consumption. The product of an unstable. seven-times- married. artist mother. and tale-telling. brawling father. a childhood of alcohol- fuelled deceit unravels to expose the underlying truths.
I Hannibal Ross l.eckie (Abacus £6.99) Debut novel from Edinburgh-dwelling journalist l-eckie. Hannibal's birth to death narrative lays bare a life of conflict and conquering in all its graphically gory detail. Unavoidably but successfully expansive. Hannibal also brings characters to life with vivid detail and. vitally. avoids the overbearing dryness which permeates so many similar works. I R. Us Dream Walter Mosley (Picador £5.99) Familiar in style but not character. Mosley gives P.I. Fasy Rawlins. star of Devil In :I lilue Dress. a break to tell the tale of Soupspoon Wise. an isolated. dying blues musician. ()bsessed by the night he played with the great R. 1.. Johnson. he shares his memories with Kiki Waters. a woman equally embroiled in her past.
I Maskerade Terry Pratchett (Corgi £5.99) A superior outing from the phenomenally popular l)iscworld stable. this time centred around Ankh-Morpork. the immense opera house belonging to cheese baron Mr Bucket. Housing a motley crew of misfit staff. the theatre soon attracts mayhem courtesy of a soprano-seducing Phantom of the Opera and disgruntled witches ()gg and Weatherwax.
l The Hundred Secret Senses Amy Tan (Flamingo £6.99) An Anglo-Oriental born in San Francisco. ()Iivia Yee is five years old when. soon after their father's death. she is united with her Chinese half-sister. the eighteen-year-old Kwan who claims to communicate with Yin ghosts. who proffer advice. For 30 years the Westernised ()livia struggles to understand her strange sibling at whose core lies a desperate secret. (Susan Mackenzie)
E ENTS Glasgow
Sunday Rhymes Sun 17 Nov. 3-5pm. Brel. 39 Ashton Land. 342 4966. The ﬁrst of a new series of monthly poetry readings being held at the bar/restaurant. with contributions from Viv Gee. Rab Fulton and Donna Krachan.
0! Clarke Tue 19 Nov. 7.15pm. £5 (£1 redeemable against book). John Smith's. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. An evening of snifﬁng and swilling with the Food and Drink presenter.
Frankie bettori Wed 20 Nov. 7pm. Waterstone‘s. 121 Union Street. 221 0890. The record-breaking jockey talks to Racing Channel presenter Gordon Brown. and signs copies of Frankie Dettori: The Diary OfA Sporting Phenomenon (Heinemann £15.99).
Graham lironi Thurs 2| Nov. 6.30pm. John Smith's. 252 Byres Road. 334 2769. Lironi reads from his new book Tlte Bone/s OfCltrist (Black Ace £6.95).
Jaclr Webster Thurs 2) Nov. 7pm. John Smith's. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. The journalist reads from his new book The Herald Years (B & W £14.99). Kenneth White Fri 22 Nov, 5.30pm. Waterstone‘s. 121 Union Street, 221 0890. The Scots poet and writer reads from his new book of interviews Coast To Coast (Open World). published to coincide with the new exhibition celebrating his work
on show at Edinburgh‘s National Library. null Evening Tue 26 Nov. 7pm. Dillons. I74 Argyle Street. 248 4814. A pub-quiz style evening. with questions drawn from David Albury's new book The Quiz Masters Scottish Qui: Book (Polygon £4.99). Kathleen Jamie Tue 26 Nov. Iptn. Collins Gallery. Richmond Street. 552 4400. One of Scotland's leading poets gives a reading. A History or Scottish Architecture Thurs 28 Nov. 6.30pm. John Smiths. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. Co-author Ranald Maclnnes gives an illustrated lecture entitled ‘Romancing The Stones: A History of Scottish Architecture l500—l996'. introduced by Kirsty Wark. laurie Campbell Thurs 28 Nov. 7.30pm. Hillhead Library. Byres Road. Info: Scottish Wildlife Trust. ()I31 312 7765. A slide presentation. talk and signing of Campbell's new book (jolt/en Eagles. Archaeological Evening Thurs 28 Nov. 5.30pm. John Smith‘s. John McIntyre Building. University Avenue. 334 1210. Three Historic Scotland authors talk about Rontan Scotland (David Breeze). Pitts. Gaels and Scots (Sally Foster) and Neolithic and Bronze Age Scotland (Patrick Ashmore).
Kenneth White Sat 16-22 Nov. National Library of Scotland. George IV Bridge.
2264531. The Scottish Centre For Geopoetics hold a series of events to mark the Library‘s new exhibition on the life and work of this Scottish writer. Events include a one-day conference. talks. reading and the launch of White's book of interviews ('oast To Coast Yellow Cale Stilt 17 Nov. 8pm—midnight. £3 (£1.50). ()ver 18s only. Assembly Rooms. 54 George Street. 220 4349. The Cafe return for another evening of underground poetry. music and ﬁlm. Part of Assembly alive! Yvonne Burgess Tue 19 Nov. 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Burgess attempts to rebuild a sense of community with her new book The Mytlt ( )f I ’rog I't’.\'.\'. Torn Stevenson Wed 20 Nov. 7pm. Waterstone's. l3 Princes Street. 556 3034. Stevenson offers some advice on how to get the best from your off-licence. with tips front his new book .S'uperltooze (Faber £5.99). Free wine tasting. The Ilugh Macniarmid Memorial lecture 'ed 20 Nov. 7.45pm. £3 (£2). Netherbow Theatre. 43 High Street. 556 9579. Thomas Clancy presents “St Colurnba and Scottish Poetry‘. Frankie Dettorl Thurs 21 Nov. 7pm.Waterstone's. I3 Princes Street. 556 3034. The record-breaking jockey talks to Racing Channel presenter Gordon Brown. and signs copies of Frankie Dettori: The Diary OfA Sporting Phenomenon (Heinemann £15. 99).
98 The List IA5-28 Nov 1996