Reviews & features: Doug Johnstone

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Robert MacFarlane at Edinburgh Book Festival with The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

19 Aug 2012

Finding a calling in nature writing

A new generation of authors is bringing an incredible range of skills to nature writing: literary style, social observation, memoir, geology, cartography and psychology amongst them. All of which can be found in Robert Macfarlane’s remarkable third…

Authors exploring nature writing at the 2012 Edinburgh Book Festival

11 Jul 2012

Jean Sprackland, Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie go outside

There has been a genuine resurgence of interest in the field of nature writing over the last decade. Allied to an increase in the number of related programmes on television, the publishing world has really embraced this renaissance, with a wider range…

Interview - Alan Bissett

24 Aug 2011

Writer tackles Scotland’s sectarian shame in fourth novel Pack Men

With the rivalry between the Old Firm reaching dangerously manic levels recently, you’d think that sectarianism would be reflected in our nation’s fiction, but it’s hard to think of many novels that examine our unique bigotry. Step forward Alan Bissett…

Jackie Kay: Finding Family

12 Aug 2010

Red Dust Road is a remarkable account full of passion and humour

The ideas of belonging and identity are at the very core of what it means to be human, but those themes become much more complex when the person in question is adopted. The adopted person’s search for their biological parents is a familiar narrative…

Faith No More

13 Aug 2009

They were true rock subversives and are back to blow our minds.

It’s almost impossible these days to imagine just how bad things were, but rock music was a fucking embarrassment in the early 80s. The collapse of the dinosaur rock behemoths of the previous decade into hopelessly bloated, overblown, self-important…

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Chika Unigwe

12 Aug 2009

Learning how much shame there is in luxury

The depiction of prostitutes in fiction can be a one-dimensional affair, but not in Chika Unigwe’s poignant and moving novel On Black Sisters’ Street. Unigwe was raised in Nigeria, but has spent the last decade in Belgium, and it was a culture shock…

James Kelman

12 Aug 2009

Striking deep into the Scottish soul

There can be few Scottish writers as lauded as James Kelman, and rightly so. The Glasgow-born author has spent a career carving out a place as the authentic voice of his generation, his use of stream-of-consciousness prose and vernacular Scots…

5 reasons to go see: The Telescopes

6 Aug 2009

1. It’s a trip down memory lane. Formed in 1987 by frontman Stephen Lawrie, these wall-of-sound shoegazing-cum-baggy space-rock pioneers are the forgotten sons of 1990s indie. But forgotten no more! Cos they’re playing this gig, likes. 2. You get…

Nii Ayikwei Parkes' 'Tail of the Blue Bird'

13 Jul 2009

British-born Ghanian poet on his novelistic debut

The jump from performance poet to novelist is not necessarily easy or obvious, but Nii Ayikwei Parkes pulls it off with aplomb. The British-born, Ghana-raised writer is now based in Manchester, where he’s made a name for himself as a live performer of…

Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

21 Aug 2008

Electrifying collaboration brought together by MySpace

Opposites attract, right? That certainly seems true for Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, the former being a short, stocky, shy beatmaster while the latter is a tall, skinny hyperactive wordsmith. ‘We both bring the best out of each other,’ says Pip, aka…

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Festival Books - Rosemary Goring

21 Aug 2008

The history woman

Rosemary Goring tells Doug Johnstone about finding the voices or ordinary people. There’s been a resurgence of interest in Scottish history among ordinary punters, a trend Scotland: The Autobiography taps into brilliantly. Edited by Rosemary Goring, a…

Chuck Palahniuk - Snuff love

14 Aug 2008

Chuck Palahniuk tells such stark tales that people faint at his readings. Doug Johnstone crosses his legs, girds his loins and chats to the guru of gore

5 Reasons To Go See - John Renbourn

14 Aug 2008

1 He’s an axe hero OK, he’s not in the same mould as Slash, but the veteran English guitarist and songwriter delivers an exemplary, dextrous mix of blues, folk, classical and jazz to wow his audience. 2 He’s a Pentangle Renbourn was one of the…

Jackie Leven

7 Aug 2008

Scottish outsider brings home his extensive back catalogue

It’s the stuff on your doorstep that always goes unnoticed. While we heap plaudits on underground legends from across the pond, Scotland’s own talented outsider Jackie Leven remains unheralded. ‘I can’t get arrested in this country,’ Leven laughs…

James Meek

7 Aug 2008

Johnny Depp-friendly author and journo

As well as writing novels, James Meek has spent a lot of time as a journalist reporting from conflict zones, and this experience fed into his latest fictional work, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. A global book, it ranges from London to rural America…

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Kapka Kassabova

7 Aug 2008

Travel memoir about Bulgaria from Edinburgh-based scribe

Kapka Kassabova likes to travel. You can tell, because the writer’s accent is all over the place: there’s Eastern European, Antipodean and a hint of Scottish in there as she chats away. Kassabova was raised in Bulgaria before living in New Zealand for…

Laura Marling

7 Aug 2008

The Mercury Rev

Laura Marling is infuriating. Not her music, which is sublime, heartfelt, folky genius, but rather Marling herself, who’s so bloody talented and still only 18 years old. She got started early, brought up by a gardener mother and a father who was an…

Drive-By Truckers - Evolution rock

31 Jul 2008

Drive-By Truckers may hail from America’s south but they do way more than your average redneck stomp. Doug Johnstone meets an ambitious rock band unafraid to take themselves and their audience to new highs

Ed Byrne - Cry freedom

31 Jul 2008

Amnesty International supporter Ed Byrne may not be sure where he fits in any more but, as he tells Doug Johnstone, this keeps him in material

Idiots of Ants

31 Jul 2008

Internet sensations return with more sketches firmly on the side of silly

A lot of modern comedy dwells on the darker side of life, but that’s not an accusation to be levelled at Idiots of Ants. The London-based four-man sketch act can be placed firmly in the ‘daft’ file, and if you don’t believe us just check out their…

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Six places: to hear good music during August

31 Jul 2008

Voodoo Rooms. Recently given a major facelift, this swanky venue plays host to club nights and live music of indie, hip hop, blues, jazz, soul, funk and cabaret flavours. Expect anything and everything. The Royal Oak Home to the city’s underground folk…

Andrew Clover’s Crazy Kids’ Show

22 Jul 2008

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Andrew Clover’s show for children came about purely by accident. Last year he wrote a novel for teenagers with an agency booking him to appear at schools to discuss it. Only they booked him into the wrong schools. ‘They sent me to primary schools by…

Craig Davidson

23 Aug 2007

Craig Davidson doesn’t pull any punches. We might as well get the terrible boxing pun out the way at the start, because his debut novel, The Fighter, is a brutally violent but brilliantly written tale set in the world of underground bare-knuckle…

Billy Brag

16 Aug 2007

Billy Bragg was described by The Times as ‘a national treasure’. That particular phrase would surely bring a wry smile to his face, not least because the topic currently vexing the lifelong political campaigner and singer-songwriter is the fundamental…

Katrin Himmler

9 Aug 2007

Katrin Himmler was born into a family with a dark history, but has only now been able to write about it. She tells Doug Johnstone about reliving the past