Review of November Book Week Scotland Event: Alastair Jackson

By Simon Clayton

The Spirit Is Willing…

The Reading Room were pleased to welcome photographer and author, Alastair Jackson, to a ‘Book Week Scotland’ event at Edinbane on Tuesday 19th November. A pleasing number of fifteen members and guests braved the drizzly night, to hear the former Skye resident talk about his collaborative work with poet Kenneth Steven.

The ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ is a homage to legendary poet Sorley MacLean and skillfully combines the poetry of Kenneth and the photography of Alastair. In spite of his doubts surrounding the publisher’s imposed title, Mr Jackson went through the evocative and haunting images in the book, on slides, each accompanied by an appropriate poem.

Mostly seascapes and all monochrome, the photographs brought to life the wonderful boundaries of Skye and Raasay and made many of us want to visit some of the vantage points Alastair used. Many were subsequently put off when learning of the difficulties of access, and the (up to) 5-hour walks involved!

The topics brought to life by the photos and poems were very much the stuff of Skye’s history and a wider Scottish context. Depopulation was well demonstrated and one brooding picture of Storr Lochs – entitled ‘After Culloden’ – clearly told a wider story. Each image seemed to bring the ever-changeable Skye weather into play, to great effect.

After the presentation and questions, we all enjoyed the usual delicious home baking and hot drinks which helped the group have a good ‘blether’ – which is, after all, this year’s concept for Book Week Scotland. The icing on the cake was to learn subsequently that ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ has been listed for the next Highland Book Award. We wish Alastair well in the judging of that competition.

Alastair Jackson Blethers With His Camera: Spirit of the Hebrides

Tuesday Evening, November 19, 7.30 pm, Edinbane Hall, Free Admission

Book Week Scotland is the annual event which celebrates books and reading, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust. We invite the public to come and play with this year’s theme, Blether. Bring your passion for reading and propensity to chin-wag, and join us at Edinbane Community Hall on Tuesday, 19th November, at 7.30 p.m.

Our merrymaking will center around Skye and Raasay and island life, with Alastair Jackson, co-author of The Spirit of the Hebrides. The book combines the poetry of Kenneth Steven with the photography of Mr. Jackson and features images of Skye and Raasay in homage to one of Scotland’s leading 20th century poets, Sorley MacLean.

Alastair JacksonAlistair Jackson is a photographer who grew up on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland; the environment has inspired him to create images which reflect this. He has been exhibiting since 2016, and his interest in wandering the hills and coast bring a psychogeographical dimension to his work, along with his interest in the history and culture of the Highlands. His photographs capture the sublime beauty of the isles, and those of us who love them should appreciate the familiar haunting quality of the images.

In addition, Alastair has sought to collaborate with a range of other creators, including artists Kate McMorrine and Moira Buchanan; photographer Ingrid Budge; and broadcaster & record producer, John Cavanagh.

His latest projects broaden his scope of work to look at environmental issues which are currently causing concern.

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven grew up in the Scottish Highlands and is first and foremost a poet. In late April, 2015, the Reading Room had the pleasure of his company for a companionable, informative and inspiring afternoon workshop and impressive evening reading. His gentle, contemplative nature worked its charm on the audience and he is fondly remembered and wished well on this collaboration with Alastair. The Spirit of the Hebrides, with Alastair Jackson’s stunning photography, must have touched what Kenneth is most interested in – the link between people and their land, what makes individuals the way they are, and how that identity is shaped and changed by wild places in particular. Though he will not be with us for the evening, we will naturally be blethering about his literary contribution to the book.

This event is funded by Scottish Book Trust. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

For more information about our event or questions about the Reading Room, please contact us at: skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: The Reading Room – Skye.

 

Review of October Event: James Oswald

By Debbie Roberts

It was a delight to meet James Oswald last week and hear him read from ‘Natural Causes’ and talk about his writing.

It appears that this farmer, writer and all round nice guy has spend most of his life writing in one style or another – comics, fantasy, crime with a sprinkling of the supernatural – you name it he’s almost certainly tried it.

Success as an author in financial terms has only come fairly recently and holidays as a couple are well nigh impossible with an extended family of beef cattle.

One of the characters in the Inspector McLean series is named after James’ friend and fellow writer Stuart MacBride. I’m still trying to figure out whether DI Tony McLean might in fact be James Oswald!!

If ever you get a chance to hear James speak don’t hesitate – you won’t be disappointed…

Next Event
Join us to celebrate Book Week Scotland at Edinbane Community Hall on Tuesday 19th November. We’ll be having a blether about Skye and Raasay and island life with Alastair Jackson – co-author of ‘The Spirit of the Hebrides’ : Word and Images inspired by Sorley Maclean.

The event is free and everyone is welcome so don’t be shy…

James Oswald: Darkness and Light

Event: Tuesday 29th October, Edinbane Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Related imageAuthor James Oswald has a gentle manner of speaking, whether he is telling a story about his life or answering queries about his writing career. While I watched his interview videos, it was easy to imagine him softly encouraging a calf into new life on his 350-acre Fife livestock farm that overlooks the River Tay.

Oswald has pursued a varied career – from Wine Merchant to professional Sheep Shit Sampler. The latter reference continuously tickled one of his interviewers, fellow crime writer Barry Forshaw, who referred to Oswald’s books as gritty, tough and mesmerising.

James Oswald has been a storyteller since he was a child, and we look forward to the many tales he can share about his life on the farm, including changes due to the political climate, and how he writes and gets published. He can tell us about the publishing house bidding war that arose after the astonishing success of his two debut novels as e-books, both of which were short-listed for the Crime Writing Association Debut Dagger Award. Natural Causes and The Book of Souls stirred elements of urban fantasy into “police procedural” genres, which initially had no commercial appeal for publishers. Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is a tragic figure who operates in Edinburgh as a traditional sleuth, while using his supernatural intuition. He is currently stalking inexplicable evil in Bury Them Deep, the 10th novel in this series, not yet released. Tony McLean resurrected from two much earlier comic scripts of ghost stories – Oswald admits to easy mind-wandering among dragons and magic.

Nothing to Hide (New Series James Oswald)His new Constance Fairchild series is receiving accolades from readers. Con works for the Met, and though this young, female detective is based in London, her dark, shivery world gets the opportunity to hover around Tony McLean’s equally sinister one. Although the twain have not yet met, it is hoped they will. The second novel, Nothing to Hide, is available in hard cover, audio and ebook, and the paperback will be out on November 14.

Under his perhaps no longer well-hidden identity, J D Oswald, James also has written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The whole series is now available in print, ebook and audio formats.

Image result for james oswald

What kind of person writes crime novels? How can you spend hours a day with grisly, adrenaline-pumping details, twisted human minds and dredging up uncountable possibilities of evil in our world? According to James Oswald, the crime writers he knows are nice and well-adjusted people, without the competitive edge you get with other writers: “All the frustrations in life we get out on the page!” 

To dig into the mind that creates gruesome demons that might actually exist (and who’s to say they don’t) but a rational detective must accept irrational explanations (and can you destroy or stop a supernatural monster?) – well, I say, come and enjoy James Oswald with the Reading Room, on Tuesday, October 29! Committee members meet up at the Edinbane Inn around 6 p.m. for dinner and welcome anyone who wants to join them. The event at Edinbane Hall starts at 7:30 p.m. 

Refreshments will be served. You may browse our Good Reads table and expect interesting camaraderie among guests and our special guest, James Oswald. Non-members pay £5 at the door. All are welcome.

For information about this event or questions regarding the Reading Room, please contact us at:  skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye 

 

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Review of September Event: Max Scratchmann

By Irene Ross

The guest speaker at our September meeting was Max Scratchmann, poet, writer and illustrator. He treated us to his Edinburgh Fringe show, ‘The Last Burrah Sahibs’, based on his book of the same name. With a background of home movies from his childhood in India and Scotland, Max described life through the eyes of the child he was, beginning with the scents and sounds of life as the child of a jute factory manager in India. He spoke of the shock of returning to Scotland where the family’s status was significantly lower than on the subcontinent and the snow was savagely cold. The return of his family to what is now Bangladesh allowed the boy to witness the end of the colonial era.

The talk was in turn comical, tragic and an historical account of a turbulent time. He was able to compare and contrast the two lifestyles: the houses, the staff (or lack of it) and the social differences between the two societies. He touched on the impact on his parents, especially his Mother, of the move from India to Scotland and then back to Bangladesh. He finished the evening with one of his poems highlighting the things he loves about Scotland, now his home, although he does not rule out a return to India in his retirement.

Next Event
Join us at Edinbane Hall on Tuesday 29th October to hear from crime writer James Oswald author of the Inspector MacLean novels set in Edinburgh.

Max Scratchmann: Be Ready For Anything

Event: Tuesday, September 24, Edinbane Community Hall.

Illustrator, writer, performer, poet Max Scratchmann very likely will have you talking about this evening for a long time. We are pleased to give you the opportunity to meet this engaging artist at our next meeting in the intimate Edinbane Community Hall, Tuesday, 24 September, 7:30 p.m.

Max is a prolific illustrator, with work appearing on over forty book covers, various CD sleeves and T-shirts and literally hundreds of magazines in Britain, America and Japan. He is the author of over eighteen books, including the award-winning autobiography about Scottish jute workers in India, The Last Burrah Sahibs, and the unintentionally controversial account of downshifting in the Scottish islands, Chucking It All.

 The Last Burrah Sahibs is a humorous and compelling memoir of the lost life of luxury in 1960s Bangladesh, through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy.

His book on living in the Orkneys gave him short-lived and undeserved infamy. Chucking It All: How Downshifting to a Windswept Scottish Island Did Absolutely Nothing to Improve My Life was called “one of the most hilarious books you will read this year” by The Scottish Review of Books. The author’s irreverent, but grudgingly affectionate portrait of his failed attempt at living among Orkney’s denizens especially enraged locals who recognized themselves being characterized. What was light-hearted grousing apparently led to his manuscript being binned by the original publisher. We want to hear the story.

 Max’s poems and short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and he runs the Edinburgh performance poetry company, Poetry Circus. An additional tidbit is that he also works as a model and has a remarkable portfolio.

He has led seminars on self-promotion for artists at the Centre for Arts Development in Liverpool and taught both collage and digital art throughout the country. He also exhibits his work The evening should include a sprinkling of his talents.

Everyone is welcome to join the group for this special event. Non-members, £5. Refreshments are served and we always have our Good Reads table open for browsing.

If anyone would like to join committee members for pre-event drinks or dinner, just pop into the Edinbane Inn around 6 p.m.

For information about this event or questions regarding the Reading Room, please contact us at:  skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August at the Reading Room and around Skye

Lots and lots going on this month – here are a few suggestions to tempt the book lovers amongst us…….

Saturday 10th August  11.00am-3.00pm Skeabost – free entry
Reading Room Book Stall
at the monthly Indoor Sale at Skeabost Memorial Hall.

Skye Live Literature Weekend courtesy of SEALL
Friday 16th August 7.30pm-9.00pm at Sabhal Mor – check website for prices etc
Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John C Brown OBE and Rab Wilson, renowned Scots poet and NTS Scriver in Residence at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, come to Skye to launch their new book Oor Big Braw Cosmos in a fascinating illustrated talk with readings. http://www.seall.co.uk/events/seall-live-literature-16-august/

Saturday 17th August at An Crùbh – check website for prices etc
2pm – 3pm
Maggie Craig – Interesting Times: The Men and Women of the ’45
3.15pm – 4.15pm 
Barbara Henderson – Going Down in History: Writing workshop
https://www.seall.co.uk/events/seall-live-literature-maggie-craig-17-august.

Reading Room Blether aboot books
Tuesday 27th August 7.30pm at Edinbane Community Hall – free of charge
Following the enjoyable launch of Lin Anderson’s latest book ‘Time for the Dead’ at the library in Portree there will be a chance to discuss it at the Reading Room’s monthly get together. If you’ve not got a copy they’re available at Aros and at Carmina Gadelica in Portree. If you don’t get a chance to read it beforehand you’re still welcome to come along and be sociable – remember we’re always looking for suggestions for future events.

Hope to see you at some of these events