Christopher Brookmyre gives us a run down of some of his favourite Scottish books and explains why he’s a fan.
Swing Hammer Swing by Jeff Torrington
If the spirit of Glasgow could be distilled into a single volume, it would be this one. It is filled with a love of language, a love of place and a love of people, but remains fiercely unsentimental. I read it again every few years to recharge the patter banks.
Espedair Street by Iain Banks
This is the book that will always remind me most of Iain, as I think he channelled some of himself into the character of Weird: a creative individual with grand ambitions to match his talent, but his art hiding a shyness uncomfortable with fame. I realise that other Banks novels are more highly regarded, but this one just connected with me. I love the themes of loneliness and redemption, of an ordinary character adrift in the extraordinary world of rock and roll.
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
I have never taken hallucinogenic or indeed psychogenic drugs, and nor would I ever need to while Lanark is there on the shelf. Reading Lanark is like being transported inside one of Alasdair Gray’s paintings, a disorientating, disturbing, often uncomfortable but ultimately enriching experience.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Pirates would never have been cool without Stevenson, and thus a line can be drawn from the captain and crew of the good ship Hispaniola to the captain and crew of the space ship Serenity. As a child I loved the sense of the tropically exotic and the sheer escapism of this novel, usually read while the rain was lashing the windows outside.
Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks
The best twist in a novel is one which alters everything that has gone before it. Use of Weapons thus has perhaps the greatest twist of any novel I have read, but even without that, it is a towering SF epic, dizzying in its scope and dazzling in its structure.
I’m paying my dues here. I keep a Chambers dictionary a couple of feet from my computer for quick if not easy reference; reference can’t be said to be easy when a volume requires both hands to hold. It is a part of my work and a part of my life, and something of a constant companion.
Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
The Bible John case had already reached near-mythical status by the time I was growing up, so it was both ingenious and audacious for Ian to blend it into a work of fiction. That sense of Scotland still being haunted by these murders made this one of the most immediate and exciting crime novels I ever read; seldom has the action felt so live as when I followed Rebus on this investigation.
Laidlaw by William McIlvanney
At a time when most British crime fiction seemed starchy or even twee in comparison to its US practitioners, here was a novel that showed the way forward in examining how every crime was inextricable from its social environment. I first read Laidlaw shortly after moving to London in 1989, and it instantly took me home, back to the raw, pungent and morally labyrinthine Glasgow I knew.
Glue by Irvine Welsh
I’m probably in a tiny percentile in preferring this above the rest of Irvine Welsh’s oeuvre, but its (albeit comparative) tenderness in depicting friendships enduring through thick and thin makes this the one I keep coming back to. Also, it introduced the world to Juice Terry Lawson, one of the funniest creations in Scottish literature.
The Sopranos by Alan Warner
Once again I am probably in a minority in believing this superior to the likes of Morven Callar, but The Sopranos has a richness and vibrancy to it that I find hugely uplifting and therefore more appealing. I fear it has suffered from its unfortunate clash of titles, because it ought to appear on far more lists like this one. It stands among the funniest and most convincing works ever to depict joyful teenage exuberance in all its daft and chaotic glory.
Lanark: A Life in Four Books
Alasdair Gray, William Boyd
Black & Blue
The Chambers Dictionary
Swing Hammer Swing!: (Scottish Classics)
Use of Weapons
Iain M. Banks
Robert Louis Stevenson, Eoin Colfer, John Seelye
Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1)
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