Author of a poetic work on 19th century Edinburgh murderer William Burke, and the wordsmith behind a Celtic Connections opera on Flora MacDonald, Johnny Rodger speaks to Ann Donald.

flame Johnny Rodger. Age 34.

Previous jobs I‘m still polishing barrels btrt I did witness the great Edinburgh literature scant. l have worked in Spain. Sweden. Rome. Paris. Budapest. till I returned to Glasgow in I990 to start my first person narrative as The Auricle (published in book forrn in I995). I‘m fluent in Italian. French and Swedish. I'm good at German and Spanish and am basic-to-good in Gaelic and Hungarian.

Route to becoming a writer I could say the 44 bus btrt that would be childish. so I‘ll say I‘ve Burked my way up through the school of hard Knox till completing the sacred text. the cultural artifact whose resonance of course brings to mind the Greek etymology of the word Bible (g) haun(s) Q. illustrated by K. D. Farqulrarson. whose drawings and designs fortn a “seamless garment' with the very black and white of the words and spaces of the book. Daily routine I do the same things every day long hours in front ofthe fire then go down the pub. All these writers that say they write I000 words a day are talking shite. I believe that if you have nothing to say that day then say nothing.

Influences The Romans. Greeks. French. Germans. Russians. Scots. Irish. Hank Williams. In fact. anyone except the English.

Ambitions To write a machine capable of smashing the prose/poetry barrier arid then to drive it down the pub. Fears Literary-wise it has to be Irvine Welsh’s acne.

Income Everyone knows that packaging is more important than authenticity. So for the moment if you‘re not a semi-literate ba-heided. wannabe ned. then the answer is nain. Even James Kelman had to accept that daft prize. Housewife's Choice.

(g) haun(s) Q by Johnny Rodger and K. I). Farquharson is published by dualchas. Rodger will be at Celtic Connections. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Wed 29 Jan. Ipmjor Conversation Pieces: Flora MacDonald. The opera STRI. co- written with Tommy Fowler. will be at Celtic Connections 1 999.


I The Underground Man Mick Jackson (Picador £I5.99) In one of those annoyingly arrogant touches. Jackson finishes this novel with the note that ‘astute’ readers will have noticed a similarity between his subject and the fifth Duke of Portland. Those not astute enough to have heard of the fifth Duke will be left wondering whether he also built tunnels under his estate big enough to drive a carriage down:

wandered around in search of an elusive childhood memory; was mocked by the local populace and ended up a doddery old man. confused and confusing.

Using the contrivance ofjournals written by His Grace during the final winter of his life. Jackson has created an intriguing little novel which is nrore of at bedtime or fireside ponderer than meaty must-read. The denouetnent. when it arrives. is of the ‘so what." variety. btrt the getting there is pleasant enough to make you wish you had lingered longer over it. (Thom Dibdin)


I The Hottest State Ethan I-lawke (Flamingo £9.99) Perhaps he is reluctant to drown us in angst. btrt film and stage actor Ethan Hawke‘s debut novel is so finicky in its avoidance of cliché that the story promising in outline becomes bland and unabsorbing.

The prose is fine. cantering along with the plot as William. a young screen

actor living in New York. allows hirnselfto fall heavily for the quirky. woolly-tight wearing. rape statistic- toting Sarah. When her misgivings kick in and the swain is unceremoniously dutrrped. he begins the familiar rituals ofgrovelling. trashing household items and pondering familial shortcomings.

“Hey. live a little‘. would paraphrase the novel's flimsy (spirit. The book by the star of [hf/ore Sunrise is fodder for teenagers or late-developing adults. (Deirdre Molloy)


I Scotland - The Movie David Bruce (Polygon £l4.99) Cynics claim that Hollywood‘s love of Scotland as a movie-making centre is a fad fuelled by the nation‘s spectacular scenery. These locations provide the basis for David Bruce‘s geographical arrangement of a century of films and film-going in Scotland The Movie. but the former director of the Scottish Filrn Council travels beyond Brave/teart’s glens. taking in filrn sites from Shetland to the Borders. _ The framework may be A-to-Z (well... Abbotsford to Wigtown. to tell the truth). btrt this is rrrore than a loose gazetteer: by touching on a wide diversity of people. subjects and Jtyles all of which are still distinctive y Scottish Bruce conveys an impression of Scotland as a country bursting with strong stories and the artists to tell them. Almost literally tnapping out the

country‘s contribution to the big screen. Bruce encourages the reader to drop in wander around landscapes as varied as Whisky (iii/ore and Trainspotting.

( Alan Morrison)


I It You leave Me, Can I Come Too? Cynthia Heitnel (Picador £5.99) A rnotrthy American. Heirnel‘s observational collections tackle life and love front a feminist perspective. A particularly good study of neurosis with sharp stream of consciousness pieces. this is certainly an amusing read. Most impressive. however. is the way in which Heimel has cleverly disguised a barrel load of whinging and men- baiting beneath a veneer of validity.

I Duplicate Keys Jane Smiley (Flamingo £5.99) Six close friends are tested when two of them are shot dead. Each survivor and a sizeable list of acquaintances come under suspicion. each possessing a set of keys to the apartment. Despite a cast of thoroughly unlikeable characters. Duplicate Keys is a well-structured attention-grabber and a cautionary tale of cause and effect.

I Lunderston Tales Robin Jenkins (Polygon £8.99) A curious little slow burner. this short story collection involving the residents of a humdrum Scottish seaside town has a lot to say for itself. Whether telling of unremarkable events —« closure of public lavatories -~ or more notable happenings —- local lad becomes mercenary each understated. observant tale has an expansive subtext. I Eva Peron Alicia l)u_jovne ()rtiz (Warner £6.99) A timely translation. this biography picks at the mysteries and half-truths attributed to Evita. a political figurelread surrounded by tnore rorrrantic lore than Margaret Thatcher. Despite this staggering

re\ elation. Argentina‘s first lady is shown to be a rerrrarkably talented tnass of contradiction and determination. the truth reading like a fairy tale.

I A User’s Guide To The Millennium J. G. Ballard (Flamingo £6.99) More accurately a user‘s overview of the century. this anthology of essays and reviews demonstrates the Ilipside to Ballard‘s crash-damaged fiction. Written between I962 and I995. these 90 eclectic pieces are the outpourings of a tnirrd which hordes the diversity of the 20th century with squirrel-like enthusiasm. (Susan Mackenzie)



I Spoken Word Fri I0 Jan. 8.30pm. Java Internet Cafe. l52 Park Road. 337 6727. Art evening of performance poetry. live music and DJs. plus open trric slots.

I Burns 1997 Conference Sat I8 Jan.

9. l5am—4.30pm. £15 (£7). includes lunch. University of Strathclyde. John Anderson Building. Room 325. For tnore information contact Cath Wales on 552

s ;

The 1997 Conference tor Burns Night Is at Strathclyde Universlty on Sat 18

4400 ext 35 I6. This one-day conference features a variety of speakers including Liam Mcllvanney and Billy Kay who will be looking at various aspects of the songs. poetry. language atrd legacy of the Bard. .

I The Edinburry Whoors Sun I9 Jan. 3pm—5pm. The Brel Bar Restaurant. 39 Ashton Lane. 342 4966. Viv Gee hosts poetry readings by Sandy Craigie. amongst others.


I John Burnside Fri IO Jan. 8pm. Collective Gallery. 22 Cockburn Street. 220 I260. Scottish poet John Burnside reads from a selection of his work as part cf the Collective‘s Evidence exhibition. I Ian Rankine Wed I5 Jan. 7pm. James Thin. 53~59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Having recently returned from France to live again itr Edinburgh. the author talks about his latest crime thriller Black And Blue (Orion £9.99) involving Inspector John Rebus and. as usual. set in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I Scottish Cultural Press Mon 20 Jan. James Thin. 57 George Street. 225 4495.


Edinburry Whoor Viv Cee is your host at the Brel Bar, Glasgow on Sun 19

Professor Ronnie Jack will read Irorn the book The (‘hristus Kirk Tradition. edited by Allan H. MacLaine (Association of Scottish Literary Studies. £25) arid discuss the tradition and Scots poems of folk festivity. I Paul Magrs and Catherine Fox Thurs 23 Jan. 7pm. Waterstone's. l3 Princes Street. 556 3034. Magrs reads from his second novel Does It Show." (Chatto. £9.99) and Fox also reads from her second novel The Benefits of'l’assion (Hamish Hamilton. £16). Spookily. both of the authors have set their novels in Durham.

88 The List 10-23 Jan I997