The night before last, I was privileged to take part in the launch of the XPO North Festival in Inverness, at the Phoenix Ale House.
This event was hosted by the Highland Literary Salon, and was also a celebration of their work over the past 5 years.
Testimony to the reality of the earnest and energetic hard work that Peter Urpeth of XPO North, and Tony Ross, Helen Forbes, and the other stalwart members of the Highland Literary Salon have been doing over the past 5 years on behalf of local authors, was the sense of interest and energy in the room 2 nights ago.
Up until that night, the reading I'd done at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2002, which I'll always remember as a wonderful, special day, going on really from 12 noon in Edinburgh til around midnight, and containing myriad fascinating interactions, unpredictable "in-betweens" scattered throughout the day - up until 2 nights ago that reading in Edinburgh which had been organised by Edinburgh Review had been the most positive I'd experienced...(although, when I think, there was a close runner up to it at the Glen Mhor hotel in Inverness 3 years ago!)...but, in any case, now, when I think back, it will be the XPO North/Highland Literary Salon event of 2 nights ago that fills the mind as something special...
Flora Kennedy read from her novel, The Wild Folk...sonorous, lyrical, lilting sentences like sensuously crashing waves...the audience listened rapt to the sex-moments of her story while Flora sometimes walked a little to the side in rhythm with her prose...
L. G. Thomson read from her novel, Boyle's Law...tough, tightly-packed word-atoms of energy and economy, dangerously building to fury one moment, erupting in humour the next...the elements of her story tightly turning and circling inward, a drumming cadence of suspense in the air and her voice as she read...
I read a wee bit from The Survival of Thomas Ford...
Helen Forbes was our MC/compere, keeping gentle control of the proceedings...
Afterwards, there was a Q and A with the audience, which covered such ground as "living with the characters in our books and getting to know them"...editing...publication...agents...marketing...writing about sex, freedom of thought/expression...and what new opportunities may be on the horizon for authors, readers, and the scene of Indie Writing/Publishing in general...
It may be that, if you scroll down really quickly through the photos below, the illusion of a film strip will be achieved and a sort of accelerated motion will bring those moments back to singing life again...
(Photos courtesy of Tom and Amanda Gilmour)
A wee group photo (courtesy of Lorraine Thomson and Suzanne Murray):
After the readings, and Q and A, my "old English teacher", from over 30 years ago, David Dean, appeared before me.
I was telling him that I had been thinking of him the night before, and the way he used to sometimes talk about people "having grit"...and I had been wondering if I knew what this grit was, or if I had it...
Even as I said this, he said "You do have grit...and here's some more grit, some large granite grit"...and there already in his hand was his gift to me, this stone...Celtic I think...a Serpent consuming its own Tail...
Later...walking 40 minutes uphill at 1am, towards home, I noticed a couple of police vehicles slow down and take notice of me.
I realised I was walking along the pavement, carrying a hefty stone in my hand.
I inwardly rehearsed my speech if they pulled me over, "Good evening Officers, Don't be alarmed, I know this does not look good, a bloke walking home late at night, jacketless in a Scotland rugby shirt and carrying a large stone...but, let me explain...you see, I have been at a literary event in town, reading from my novel...and this stone is no ordinary stone, it was a gift...see, the wonderful serpent carved upon it?"
Luckily, nobody pulled me over, the Stars were aligned all that Eve...
"Top-notch - A great read with genuinely heart-stopping moments and cool twists." *****
"With a grisly style of humour and an absorbing plot this makes for an enthralling read."*****
“The central character ricochets from disaster to catastrophe, leaving good women, loving bad ones... I felt I should loathe Charlie Boyle...but somehow turned every page hoping everything would work out for him. Brilliant.”*****
Charlie Boyle, has fallen for Stella Valentine. Trouble is, Stella is married to Frank, a senior police officer, and Frank is not about to let his wife run out on him. Boyle and Valentine have history, none of it good, and the future is looking even grimmer than the past.
Boyle used to be one of the good guys. A rising star of Police Scotland, he was demoted for assaulting Valentine and now his prospects are bleak. Divorced from his wife and estranged from his daughter, the only thing keeping him going is the thought of a blue-sky future with Stella.
Desperate for money to fund their life together, Boyle stages a diamond heist. When the heist goes wrong, Boyle’s troubles are only beginning.
BOYLE'S LAW is a twisting, crime thriller set in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Rippling with dark humour, it's a page-turning read, but with lust, murder, and a diamond heist in the picture, be prepared for a view of the Scottish Highlands you won't see on any glossy calendar.
Some folk are born wild. Some have wildness thrust upon them.
When Lorna discovers the body of her childhood friend, Lachie, tangled by the tide on a Hebrides beach long-submerged family secrets and murderous truths rise to the surface threatening to wash away everything she holds dear.
“Nature writing with juicy bits.” - John Beswick
“Kennedy makes words dance a wild jig. Her writing is pleasantly pungent and rustic. The Wild Folk is a quiet story of family, the choices we make and what we choose to believe in.” - Stella Stedman
“Vigorous and enchanting, earthy and surreal.” - Owen Luckey
“Compelling, well-written, haunting. I loved it. Stays with you long after reading.” - Stacy Pond