‘I DON’T ACTUALLY THINK THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT INCEST AT ALL’ Hitlist THE BEST BOOKS, COMICS & EVENTS*
✽✽ Alan Bissett Falkirk’s finest performs sections from his highly acclaimed ‘one- woman show’, The Moira Monologues, and will delight the masses by signing copies of his latest novel, Death of a Ladies’ Man. Libertine, Ayr, Fri 19 Mar. ✽✽ Allan Guthrie and Helen Fitzgerald Two crime scribes club together for an event which will curdle the blood of any faint-hearted types in the crowd. Wester Hailes Library, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Mar. ✽✽ DiScOmBoBuLaTe The ever-entertaining monthly spoken word event crops up once again with the dry as a month-old Ryvita Ian Macpherson hosting the proceedings. The Arches, Glasgow, Tue 23 Mar. ✽✽ Kevin MacNeil Keep an eye out for the publication later this year of the big Mac’s new one, A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde. See caption, page 34 Ramshorn Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 25 Mar. ✽✽ A Gray Play Evening The godfather of Scottish literature, Alasdair Gray, is joined by some bookish buddies for a night of spoken word and performance. National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, Thu 25 Mar. ✽✽ Emily Mackie See preview, left. Sceptre. ✽✽ Derek Walcott A poetic journey through time and space in White Egrets as the 80-year-old writer gives us a collection about ageing, nature and colonialism. See review, page 33. Faber. ✽✽ Mike Carey and Peter Gross The Potter-inspired comics tale of The Unwritten involves a defiant blurring of fact and fantasy with characters seemingly slipping in and out of the real world. See review, page 33. Vertigo/Titan.
Over the course of a decade, Highlands-raised Emily Mackie has developed the vivid characters in her debut. Brian Donaldson hears about an unusual family set-up
You can almost hear the tabloid headlines blaring already. In Emily Mackie’s debut novel, And This is True, a 15-year-old boy Nevis and his author dad Marshall carry on their quiet existence living in and out of a white Ford Transit van. Since his mother left when he was four, it’s all Nevis has known. He seems withdrawn and curious, but when he starts planting kisses on his sleeping father’s mouth and observing his dad masturbate, their relationship is never the same again. Born in Winchester in 1983, Mackie moved with her parents when she was four up to Grantown-on-Spey where her mum opened a gift shop and Mackie lived a happy childhood existence until she moved away to the art college in Norwich at the age of 18. Although enthusiastic for sports, Mackie was never happier when sitting down and writing. She penned her first play at the age of nine and, in Primary 7, got into writing novels and short stories.
‘My short stories went into the fantastical and with magical settings, but they progressively got darker and darker during my teens. My English teacher and my parents were very supportive; they didn’t once turn round and say “that’s daft, get a real job”. I essentially knew that I was going to be poor for the rest of my life but I just wanted to write stories.’ When Mackie attended the Arvon Foundation writing course at the age of 17 — with Ali Smith among the authors offering guidance — she had already begun writing the characters and stories within And This is True. However, Nevis has altered dramatically over the ensuing decade. ‘When I was that age I never
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thought that he’d be in love with his father; some things have grown in over time, though it was always going to be a father-son relationship. I’m quite an androgynous person and I actually have a more masculine brain, so I naturally start writing in a boy’s voice. The only thing I was worried about was getting a boy going through puberty right. So, I read books like How to Live with a Willy.’
While predictable attention will be given to Nevis’ apparent sexual attraction to his father, for Mackie, the book is less about forbidden emotions and more about socialisation. ‘He’s never had any friends his own age, he’s only ever known his father. I was interested in testing myself to see how I thought this character would turn out and I just thought that if he’s a boy that’s lived on his own for so many years and he’s only ever known his father, then he doesn’t necessarily know that it’s wrong to have these feelings. We’ve all been socialised through our peers and books. So in the middle of puberty and feeling the way he does, it’s inevitable that he would direct these feelings towards his father. But I don’t actually think this is a book about incest at all.’ Not looking to rest on any laurels, Mackie is busy penning a very different second novel, about a Highland crofting community. Her research sounds fairly intense. ‘I’ve been watching Lambing Live on BBC2 all week. I thought it might help with the crofting scenes, all those slimy lambs getting born.’
And This is True is published by Sceptre on Thu 18 Mar.