The List's publisher, Robin Hodge, pays tribute to Canongate's visionary co-founder, who died this year, ahead of a special Edinburgh Book Festival event
The Edinburgh International Book Festival is staging a special tribute to one of the most inspiring and visionary of Scottish publishers, Stephanie Wolfe Murray, who died recently. Stephanie co-founded Canongate in 1973 and led it forward to help establish a new international reputation for Scottish literature.
She achieved this through her unique mix of vision, intelligence, determination, courage, flair and charm. Her vision and intelligence were evident from her ability to spot talent in writers that others rejected and in the ideas for books she thought up. That determination and courage were essential to surviving the various crises, financial and editorial, publishing throws up. In particular, there was the intense pressure she was under to abandon Jimmy Boyle's book A Sense of Freedom – pressure she resisted as she persevered and created a sensational success which helped prevent the Scottish prison system from reverting back to the dark old days.
But Stephanie's flair and charm stood out and enabled her to gatecrash the most exclusive parties at the Frankfurt Book Fair and do deals that others could only dream of with the leading international publishers. Her presence waving furiously from a west coast dockside once even persuaded a CalMac ferry to return to the pier after it had set off without her.
It was the publication of Alasdair Gray's ground breaking novel Lanark in 1981 that was to have the most far reaching impact. Hailed by Anthony Burgess as 'a shattering work of fiction in the modern idiom', it helped pave the way for a new generation of Scottish writers.
The event at the Book Festival will include readings from Alasdair Gray, Alexander McCall Smith and Jamie Byng.
Charlotte Square Gardens, 23 Aug, 7.15pm, free (but must be booked in advance).