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This month, BooksfromScotland brings you the inspirational, the influential, and the infamous and books that look at our history, our future and our rites of passage. From fiction to memoir, from graphic novels to current affairs, we will take you around the world and beyond for your fix of good reading. Enjoy!

This month sees the welcome republication of Jackie Kay’s Bessie Smith. Now including a new introduction, Kay’s book celebrates the life and art of the blues legend through biography, memoir, and fictional exploration. It’s a thrilling read, full of a fan’s love and will make you want to explore Bessie’s music more deeply. BooksfromScotland is on hand to start that ball rolling. We hope you enjoy these clips of an unforgettable talent.

 

Bessie Smith By Jackie Kay Published by Faber

 

Bessie Smith performs ‘St. Louis Blues’ in the film St. Louis Blues. The only existing footage of Bessie Smith singing. Jackie Kay writes: ‘I remember the shock of the grainy monochrome image of my heroine appearing in this sad tale of woe. There she was, a tall, beautiful woman, driven to drink by her feckless lover.’

 

One of Bessie’s most iconic songs, ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out’, recorded as her first marriage was breaking down, and just months before the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that saw her career decline.

 

One of Jackie Kay’s favourites, ‘Dirty No-Gooder’s Blues’. Jackie Kay writes of first hearing it: &#...

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The 25th February 2021 will be the first Gray Day, a celebration of the writer and artist Alasdair Gray, on the 40th anniversary of his masterpiece Lanark. Canongate will be publishing a new hardback edition of Gray’s seminal debut, as well as new editions of Unlikely Stories, Mostly, McGrotty and Ludmilla and The Fall of Kelvin Walker. BooksfromScotland pays tribute to one of Scotland’s most iconic works by sharing one of its most iconic passages.

 

Extract taken from Lanark By Alasdair Gray Published by Canongate

 

One morning Thaw and McAlpin went into the Cowcaddens, a poor district behind the ridge where the art school stood.They sketched in an asphalt playpark till small persistent boys (‘Whit are ye writing, mister? Are ye writing a photo of that building, mister? Will ye write my photo, mister?’) drove them up a cobbled street t...

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ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

David Robinson Reviews: How Britain Ends click

David Robinson Reviews: How Britain Ends

‘This is a consistently thought-provoking and well-argued book, and yet the more I read it, the more I wondered about English nationalism.’

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The Book According to… Craig Russell click

The Book According to… Craig Russell

‘I think every writer explores the complexities, paradoxes and contradictions of their own cultural and historical background.’

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Mrs Death Misses Death click

Mrs Death Misses Death

‘Through the blur I saw a face in the smoke above me, a woman’s face: the face of Mrs Death.’

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City of Vengeance click

City of Vengeance

‘Instead of writing, I thought about his character. Who he was, how he was able to move between all parts and layers of life in Renaissance Florence.’

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Duck Feet click

Duck Feet

‘Ah can jist see it noo … ma designer Arran cardigans wid be aw the rage.’

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Macbeth: The Red King click

Macbeth: The Red King

‘History has known a king much like Macbeth as Avon wrote. Yet unlike Shakespeare’s murd’rous rogue he virtuous was. Or so it goes.’

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Cauvery Madhavan Reviews: Murder at the Mela click

Cauvery Madhavan Reviews: Murder at the Mela

‘Soma is skillful in her revelations, carefully drawing back the many veils that shroud family life and religious pride and prejudice, so that her characters are utterly believable.’

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Talking at the Gates: James Campbell on James Baldwin click

Talking at the Gates: James Campbell on James Baldwin

‘He had the most extraordinary eyes I’ve ever seen. When he had completed his instant X-ray of my brains, lungs, liver, heart, bowels, and spinal column (while I said usefully, “Emile sent me”) he smi …

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The Last Good Year click

The Last Good Year

‘Our bones hold the nuclear tests in New Mexico, and so do wine cellars, trees and soil,’

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Havana Year Zero click

Havana Year Zero

‘But they lie, the history books lie, said Euclid, opening the folder to show me its contents.’

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Will Purdom, (1880-1921), Trade Unionist, Botanist and Ecologist click

Will Purdom, (1880-1921), Trade Unionist, Botanist and Ecologist

‘Will Purdom was a fine and honourable man, who rose from a position of very limited personal agency and overcame formidable obstacles to leave the world a better place for his passage.’

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The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy click

The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy

‘He is synonymous with bloody sacrifice, scheming, false idols, lies, cunning tests, death and brutality, fire and screaming, the animalistic, and a struggle for dominance and dominion.’

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