First up was Willie Hershaw, erstwhile head of English at Beath High School in Fife, but now focusing on writing Scots poetry. For those of us familiar with the language, this was a major treat: this was precise, accessible, unaffected Scots, a far cry from some of Hugh MacDiarmid's more affected efforts. I liked Hershaw's very first poem about the wartime pit disaster in High Valleyfield and his observations on wildlife more than the longer Lockerbie poem he read later: the latter didn;t quite work for me. A nice translation of Prospero into Scots at the end worked well, though. Hershaw is funny, to the point, and should be watched out for.
Ever Dundas nor Charles McGarry both disappointed me somewhat. Dundas read from a child-centred fantasy book set in World War 2 and did almost nothing except read from her novel. Since the genre didn't interest me, I was never going have the opportunity to find her interesting either. On the other hand Charles McGarry came across as a little aggressive. He's written one crime novel, which took 5 years, but he spoke as if he were a superstar who'd written 25 or more. I wasn't sure about his writing style either. It seemed a little forced, too flowery: crime fiction is entertainment first, second and third. The reader should never be aware it's well written until long after the book's been put down. Perhaps both Dundas and McGarry were a little nervous.
Then we had Comely Bank Publishing's own Jane Tulloch. Jane has really grown in confidence, and despite admitting that many in her audience wouldn't really like her feelgood style, she came over well, read a couple of nice pieces from her new book, and generally picked up the pace of the evening well.
The last act was Willie McIntyre. By sheer chance I'd bought his new book as a present for my son's birthday the previous week, so I was doubly interested. A criminal defence lawyer himself, McIntyre's crime writing seems easy reading, occasionally amusingly politically incorrect (but not offensively so) and he came across as a man who writes for fun – something Tulloch had referred to earlier as well. McIntyre's readings were funny, and read well, too. Based on this alone, I'd recommend his books.
Gordon Lawrie, 10th August 2017