Do You Remember The First Time? Debuts from Scottish Publishers

‘In a world saturated with images offering an unattainable standard of perfection, it’s refreshing to read an unfiltered – but unmistakably affectionate – Scottish story.’

BooksfromScotland is always on hand to shine a light on the best new releases in Scottish publishing and we thought we’d turn our spotlight to this year’s debutants, new voices in fiction, non-fiction and childrens’ books that we hope will go on to have stellar writing careers.



Blessed Assurance, Stewart Ennis

Published by Vagabond Voices, £9.95

Vagabond Voices says: Stewart Ennis’s debut novel comes with the author’s long experience as a playwright and is reflected in the perfect timing and the dialogue that sparkles throughout the novel. And this certainly helps to put across the intricate plot of a child’s imaginings and the gentle satire of a society that existed not that long ago but has disappeared almost completely.

BfS says: We loved spending time with young Joseph Kirkland as he tries to make sense of his world, growing up in his close-knit community in 1960s Scotland. It’s such a warm, tender and moving novel that tells us a lot about family, friendship and self-discovery.


Theatre of War, Andrea Jeftanovic

Published by Charco Press, £9.99

Charco Press says: We are proud to be introducing the work of Chilean author Andrea Jeftanovic into the English-speaking world. She is one of the most important female novelists in Latin America, who writes on memory and trauma from the unique point of view where different cultures and histories come together. A fascinating voice.

BfS says: From one of the most important female novelists of Latin America, Theatre of War is written with exquisite economy and powerfully depicts the devastating psychological effects of war, political violence and domestic abuse. Exploring the ghosts of a very tangible past, our narrator, nine-year old Tamara, intimately reconstructs a picture of a fragmented home and childhood, as well as reflecting back to us broader themes and the universal question – how giant historical events can affect the seemingly insignificant lives of nameless individuals.


Diverted Traffic, Avril Duncan

Published by Tippermuir Books, £8.99

Tippermuir Book says: When Avril contacted Tippermuir and gave us a chance to read her novel, we were excited about supporting a book that tackled head-on two issues of great concern to us – modern slavery and human trafficking. We were more than delighted when we read her manuscript to discover a book that highlighted these issues but was also a page-turning thriller that deserved publication for the quality of Avril’s storytelling. What more does any publisher want: a cracking read and a critical theme.

BfS says: A novel which will grip you from the word go, Diverted Traffic follows the story of nine-year-old Suman, stole from her village in India and taken to work in Amsterdam’s sex industry. A powerful story of modern slavery with numerous twists and turns before serving up a satisfying and exultant end.


Linne Dhomhain (Dark Pool), Alistair Paul

Published by Luath Press, £8.99

Luath Press says: The creativity within the Gaelic writing community is staggering and Alistair Paul’s debut is a fantastic addition to the Gaelic canon, using the worlds of the supernatural, surreal and ridiculous to great effect.

BfS says: Take a walk up the glen and dive into the deep pool. Taking inspiration from local folklore on the Island of Arran, this is a rich read which skillfully incorporates  traditional Gaelic story telling themes and techniques and weaves them into an offering that feels wonderfully modern and a little madcap. So why not come on an adventure stretching from the familiar shores of the Gàidhealtachd to the sun scorched African Savannah, taking in the smoky streets of Glasgow and the industrial heartlands of the North of England on its way.


The secrets of Greystone, Francesco Cheynet and Lucio Schina

Published by Black Wolf Edition & Publishing, £14.99

Black Wolf Edition & Publishing says: The secrets of Greystone marks the return of the historical deductive thriller genre, in an adventure that will leave the reader in suspense until the last page. This book has an unusual structure and the story weaves past and present in a complex game of puzzles. 

BfS says: If you enjoy a good puzzle then give this detective novel a go. Weaving past and present in a complex game, The secrets of Greystone conjures up a complex yet ambiguous reality which challenges the rational and invites in the supernatural.


The mysteries of the island of Thara, Lucio Schina

Published by Black Wolf Edition & Publishing, £6.99

Black Wolf Edition & Publishing says: The mysteries of the island of Thara is a story that combines adventure and mysteries. It is a short novel to read in one breath and that leaves you suspended between reality and imaginary.

BfS says: If you like novels that take you to unexpected places, that unsettle and leave you guessing, then give this tale a try. It starts with a professor of anthropology discovering a childhood diary that sparks a memory of a summer holiday, a memory that leads him on a new adventure.




Stolen Lives, Louise Hulland

Published by Sandstone Press, £11.99

Sandstone Press says: Sandstone Press is proud to publish Stolen Lives, a comprehensive and compassionate study of modern slavery. It’s vital that we all understand better how this can happen and what can be done to free victims – and keep them free.

BfS says: An examination of trafficking and slavery in Britain, this is a powerful and moving account from voices on the frontline, including one young women’s testimony of survival, charting her terrifying yet ultimately inspiring journey to freedom. An important book taking an unfaltering look at a pressing issue of our time, and shining a light on what we can do to help.


Bleak, R M Murray

Published by Saraband Books, £9.99

Saraband books says: In a world saturated with images offering an unattainable standard of perfection, it’s refreshing to read an unfiltered – but unmistakably affectionate – Scottish story. Murray writes without cringe of the multiple-day rain deluges and the midges “in such density that the air itself fought for space among them,” endured in pursuit of those breathtaking views and serene camping trips. From this to the ups and downs of Glasgow’s punk years, featuring Peter Capaldi as frontman in the Bastards from Hell band, in which Murray played – loosely speaking – guitar. It’s all served up with a dose of typically dry humour, providing moments that illustrate a Hebridean life in all its unique glories.

BfS says: Roddy Murray certainly has many a tale to tell, and all are entertaining and highly readable. Breaking ground in this unique memoir of sorts, Murray takes us on a journey of  broad experience, spanning corporal punishment, brushes with death, vans with vendettas, illegal firearms, and of being a Bastard from Hell punk and a Dreamboy with Peter Capaldi and Craig Ferguson at Glasgow School of Art, as well as a spectacularly good potato peeler.


Coming into View: Eric Watt’s Photographs of Glasgow, Isobel McDonald

Published by Glasgow Museums Publishing, £10.00

Glasgow Museums Publishing says: Isobel McDonald brings the virtually unknown photographs of Eric Watt to life, revealing highlights from his vast archive of pictures of Glasgow. Deftly explaining each scene and its historical context, Isobel’s book is a fitting tribute to Eric’s talent as a pioneer of Scottish street photography.

BfS says: Eric Watt’s photography, with pictures dating from the 1950s up until the new millenium, tells such wonderful stories of Glasgow and its people, and captures the city in a period of great change. The book is a brilliant document and deserves a place on coffee tables across the country!


Revolution: A Short, Sharp History of Scottish Wind Power – And Where it Goes in the Future, Todd Westbrook

Published by Luath Press, £9.99

Luath Press says: Revolution isn’t your usual book on renewable energy. It’s factual, funny and, most importantly, an accessible guide to how Scotland can and must achieve change.

BfS says: Seasoned journalist, Todd Westbrook crafts a compelling account of Scottish wind power in the past, the present and the future and its potential to revolutionize power production across the world. A fascinating and inspirational read which tackles head on both our climate emergency and how Scotland can – and more essentially must – achieve change.



RAF Bomber Command Striking Back, Alan Measures

Published by Whittles Publishing, £18.99

Whittles Publishing says: This is an illuminating and hugely informative story, which is an insight into the day-to-day operations of a bomber crew that reveals some of the personal stories of the airmen. The author has a personal interest in the story that motivated him to write the book.

BfS says: This extraordinary account, told through the lens of a multinational crew, presents their personal and professional experiences through an unfaltering look at the RAF’s bombing campaign during 1941-42. A campaign that faced ever mounting challenges from an increasingly organised and integrated German air defence capability.



Ayes & Ears: Opening Up the World of Westminster, David Amess

Published by Luath Press, £14.99

Luath Press says: This is the rare chance to read the inside story of Westminster, from major scandals to its inner workings, as told by an MP present throughout the last 37 years of British politics.

BfS says: This inside story, told by prominent British politician, David Amess, opens up the world of Westminster, and in doing so reveals the inner workings of Britain’s most important institution.



The Case of the Catalans, Clara Ponsati

Published by Luath Press, £7.99

Luath Press says: Clara Ponsatí was charged with sedition following Catalonia’s independence referendum and we’re proud to be publishing their work defending their political beliefs ruled unlawful by the Spanish government.

BfS says: The issue of Catalonian independence is one that has consequences not only in Spain, but across Europe and the world. If you want to find out why so many Catalans are unhappy with their current political representation, this is a vital read.



Life in the Raws: Memoirs of a Shale Oil Village, Jock Findlay

Published by Luath Press, £9.99

Luath Press says: This book’s origin story is something special, while the author’s grandson was canvassing, he visited his grandparents’ old home where the new owners discovered Jock’s story behind an old bath panel!

BfS says: From writings that started on the back of a plywood bath panel, this remarkable life story captures the essence of ‘a proud, good, clever working class man’ and his experience of everyday life in the Raws. Spanning almost a century, Life in the Raws presents the story of the unique Scottish village of Pumpherston, home to the brave shale oil workers, John ‘Jock’ Findlay among them.



A Vulture Landscape, Ian Parsons

Published by Whittles Publishing, £17.99

Whittles Publishing says: We were delighted to have the opportunity to reveal a great deal of information about these enigmatic birds in their Spanish homeland. It’s a fascinating account from an expert who has been close to them for many years.

BfS says: More than just birds, Vultures are a crucial part of many of the world’s ecosystems. This book charters a calendar year in the life of these extraordinary birds, exploring in terrific detail their survival and the important role they play as a species, as well as offering fascinating facts such as how they have mastered the art of flying without expending any energy!



Why Gardens Matter, Joanna Geyer-Kordesch

Published by Luath Press, £14.99

Luath Press says: For us and many others, our outdoors have become very important during 2020 for our health and wellbeing. This unique book on how gardens can help regenerate us is an enlightening read on these important green spaces.

BfS says: A beautiful book advocating the merits of putting down your trowel and simply sitting in your garden as an act of ‘reflection, consolation and healing’. Joanna Geyer-Kordesch, an exceptional academic writer in natural history and medicine, shares her profound experience of recovery and regeneration after suffering a major stroke through connecting with the soothing, life-affirming properties of green spaces.


Childrens Books

Tumshie, Mark Mechan

Published by Waverley Books, £7.99

Waverley Books says: (Ron) Sometimes you can be in a bookshop and a book catches your eye and stirs such personal memories that you have to have it. Ron Grosset said: ”Having worked with Mark for so long we knew the quality of his work as an artist, and being a relatively small office, we all shared each other’s sense of humour. The fact we’d been so involved in The Broons  and Oor Wullie meant nostalgia was something we are passionate about.  When Mark had the idea to tell the ‘Tumshie’ story, it was a story that resonated with us. 

In Ron’s case, his experiences of Halloween parties were strong – “perhaps not as colourful as Mark’s, but we grew up in a tenement area on the southside of Edinburgh, and Marchmont was pretty busy with tumshies. I can remember kids dressed as witches on broomsticks, ghosts (kids with a sheet over their head) and black cats with whiskers in Spottiswoode Street, rather than children dressed as Empire State Buildings. In those days the older kids in Edinburgh carried a box of Scottish Bluebells (matches) in their pocket as the tumshies kept going out, as they went from house to house.’

(Liz, in London) My mum made Halloween very special and we had a party at our house each year when we were young. We “ducked” instead of ‘dooking’ (but knew the Scots term) for apples and made toffee apples, dressed up and went to each other’s houses as witches and ghosts – these are memories indelibly stamped and important. I remember carving out oranges and little demon faces in the skin, and helped to make an ice cream/sorbet filling. Delicious. I suppose that is the soft southerners equivalent for you… The colours then were orange and black, and very simple. It was the highlight of the autumn as Guy Fawkes came right after it and we made guys with other children in our road. We had monkey nuts and sweets, but it was pretty tame stuff in comparison to now. ‘Tumshie’ for me stirs deep memories.

BfS says: The beautifully illustrated Tumshie tells the heart-warming tale of a father sharing with his son his own childhood experiences of Halloween as they prepare to welcome it in. Mark Mechan’s warmth and humour glow in his words and illustrations bringing to life the magic of times gone by in a story that will be enjoyed and resonate with all ages.


The Animal Atlas of Scotland, illustrated by Anders Frang

Published by Floris Books, £12.99

Floris Books says: We spotted Anders’ work for the first time back in 2017 when he was taking part in the Picture Hooks Mentoring Scheme, and we immediately knew that we had to work with him. The energy, sophistication and cheekiness of his work was undeniable, and when the Amazing Animal Atlas of Scotland project came along, it felt like the perfect fit for him. He exceeded our expectations; his dedication to the project and the reader was brilliant and he’s produced something really special. On every page his animals express their playful, proud or mischievous personalities in their carefully researched and beautifully illustrated habitats.

BfS says: There’s so much in this book to enjoy, from its fascinating facts to its amazing illustrations. It’s the perfect gift for any young animal enthusiast wanting to learn more about Scotland’s unique wild spaces and wonderful wildlife. It’s hard to put down once you open its pages!


The Girl Who Stole the Stars, Corrina Campbell

Published by Little Door Books, £6.99

Little Door Books says: We were struck by the originality and freshness to Corrina’s work when we found her pitching her illustrations and story ideas as part of the annual XpoNorth publishing event. We are thrilled to be showcasing Corrina’s fun and quirky style by publishing her debut picture book, The Girl Who Stole The Stars, as part of our Little Door Debuts strand. She has worked extremely hard and we are sure that, like the stars in her story, she has a very bright future ahead of her.

BfS says: Brought alive through beautiful illustrations that touch the heart of every reader, this special seasonal tale weaves themes of friendship, love, happiness, and doing the right thing together, and is sure to be a bedtime favorite.


I wanna be like Me, Kenny Taylor and illustrated by Grisel Miranda

Published by Sparsile Books, £6.99

Sparsile Books says: We felt really lucky when artist/writer duo Grisel Miranda and Kenny Taylor approached Sparsile as a publisher for their children’s book. Originally from Argentina, Grisel brought an unusual quirky perspective to her approach, while Kenny’s rich experience, travelling abroad, gave him the ‘sparkle’ we’re looking for in our new writers.

BfS says: If you have a bored little monkey at home, this is the book for them. Its strikingly colourful and playful illustrations and fun story will captivate any restless pre or early reader, and keep them captivated until its heart warming conclusion. A must for parents wanting to bolster a child’s self-esteem and teach them about being themselves.


The Ellie Adventures: Book 1 – You Have All You Need, Jonathan Liddell

Published by Swan & Horn, £8.99

Swan & Horn says: I was eager to bring Jonathan’s work to light because he has a very special blend of skills. Not only is he an accomplished and timeless artist, but he has a magical way of writing stories, especially for 7 to 12 year-olds, for whom there are few books about the specific challenges of modern life. He is passionate about helping youngsters, using his much-loved hero, Ellie, for many years to inspire them to tell their own stories and tap into their own resources. The books Swan & Horn publish cover many aspects of health and wellbeing, especially mental health, and his vision is perfectly aligned with their aspirations.

BfS says: A cracking chapter book for all young readers out there looking for a relatable hero to teach them about the depths of love and friendship, overcoming challenges, righting wrongs, and discovering what it means to ‘have all you need’.


Two Pups, Seona Calder

Published by Sparsile Books, £4.99

Sparsile Books says: Seona’s lovely book works on so many levels, we knew we had to have it. Explaining complex concepts, such as diversity, to small children can be difficult, but Seona handles it beautifully, and the lovely nostalgic artwork had parents’ reminiscing about their own childhood books. We think it’ll be a classic.

BfS says: A beautifully accessible book for any early reader exploring hard-to-explain concepts, such as difference and diversity, through the tale of an unlikely friendship. A must have for any early reader’s book collection encouraging our youngest to celebrate what makes us different as well as what connects us.

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