Could it be that His Bloody Project will win the Saltire Award for Fiction? Wee Scotland’s just been gubbed in the Man Booker – we all know GMB should have won, don't we? At least there’s a very comprehensive narrative played out on social media that suggests as much. And given that social media is one of the big arenas for hype to become reality these days, it seems something of a shoe in. It ticks so many of the boxes.
As Scots – we all love murder/crime/thriller fiction don’t we – the darker the better – or at least we're always being told this is what we like. Sorry, but I DON’T. And we don’t like Englandshire telling us we’re too wee, too poor, too stupid either do we? Even if we think we are ourselves.
But we DO all love an underdog in Scotland (of course we do, it's like looking in the mirror of our national identity) so – wee ‘indie’ type publishing company is high on the list to win, I'd say.
Might I suggest that perhaps this 'wee' narrative is a wee bit constructed too – Saraband is ‘indie’ in the same way that Small Businesses have hunners of employees. It just means they’re not HUGE.
Me, (and most likely you if you're reading this (because the 'beautiful' and 'successful' folk of Scottish literature don't tend to sully our portals here at McRenegades - we give them sair guts), well I live in the real wee indie world – we are the nano particles of the publishing world. So we will never make it onto an awards shortlist. I can guarantee you that while ’60 Years of World-Mending’ the never before published autobiography of James Leatham 1865-1945 will be entered for the Orwell Prize, it hasn’t a scoobie’s chance of winning. Damn, should have entered it for the Saltire Awards NOT. (more of that later)
Anyway for what it’s worth, maybe I’ll be wrong with GMB’s Bloody Project. The ‘field’ is strong with others who are in the Scottish cultural elite/mainstream (I know they don’t like being called an elite even though they are at the top of our cultural pyramid – I don’t know a better word than elite for that position, sorry guys). I’ll admit I’m obviously not the target audience for this lot. I’ve thus far only read one of the shortlisted books – though I will get others from the library in due course, if only so that I can feel I know more of which I speak. You may have read them all and can put me right. Here they are:
The Shortlist for The Saltire Awards Fiction:
Dirt Road James Kelman
His Bloody Project Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Blade Artist Irvine Welsh
The Brilliant & Forever Kevin Macneil
The Sunlight Pilgrims Jenni Fagan
This Must be the Place Maggie O’Farrell
How about sharing your predictions of the winner please? Or, more productively, if you've got any ideas of real ‘wee’ Scottish books which one might pick as well as or in conjunction with these shortlisted, I'd love to hear them. I'm open to recommendation that is not driven by marketing hype. So if you recommend, give your reasons please. I’m still hoping (against all evidence I fear) that there is an engaged, free-thinking Scottish readership out there who do not just follow along like sheep but can come up with good reasons why they do or don’t enjoy what they read. You may say I’m a dreamer…
Moving on in our 'shortlist' journey, I venture into truly unchartered waters.
Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year supported by the Saltire Society
Expecting Chitra Ramaswamy
Infinite Ground Martin MacInnes
This Changes Things Claire Askew
Trials on Death Row in Pakistan Isabel Buchanan
Here my ignorance knows no bounds. I’ve never heard of 3 of the writers never mind the books. And I spend a lot of time reading and reading about contemporary Scottish fiction. I obviously don’t go to the right places or speak to the write people or inhabit the right spaces in social media. So come on. Enlighten me. Which should I read and why? And which ‘real wee’ indie firsts should I read?
I’ll kick the ball off with my own opinion.
For me the outstanding Scottish First Book of the Year is Brendan Gisby’s ‘The Percentages Men.’ What do you have to say about that?
Maybe you prefer non-fiction, biography, history or research. Here are the relevant shortlists. I can’t see ‘60 Years of World-Mending anywhere on these lists, though it could fit into a number of categories.’
Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year
A Tale of Three cities Bob Harris
Castles in the Mist Robin Noble
Oil Strike North Sea Mike Shepherd
Set Adrift upon the world, the Sutherland Clearances James Hunter
Shetland and the Great War Linda K Riddell
St Kilda St Kilda: The Last and Outmost Isle Angela Gannon and George Geddes
Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year
The Vikings in Islay Alan MacNiven
James Hogg and British Romanticism Meiko O’ Halloran
Scottish Arctic Whaling Chelsey W. Sanger
The Wild Black Region Badenoch David Taylor
The Literary Culture of Early Modern Scotland Sebastiaan Verweij
These lists suggest to me that we do indeed live in a parallel universe. So I've invented my own UNDER THE RADAR AWARDS. What are awards apart from someone's opinion (and I'm happy to add yours to my own, but for the moment my own is all I have to go on) So here goes:
UNDER THE RADAR AWARD for new Scottish Fiction 2016:
The Percentages Men, Brendan Gisby
UNDER THE RADAR AWARD for Scottish Non Fiction 2016
60 Years of World Mending, James Leatham. (here I declare a personal interest as editor)
UNDER THE RADAR AWARD for Scottish Biography
The Life and Work of S.R.Crockett, Dr Islay Murray Donaldson (new edition)
Why not give them a go? You may be pleasantly surprised. They may not even be that far out of your comfort zone despite being firmly under the radar. If you've got any others worthy of being on a shortlist with these books then let me know. We might even set up a whole REAL Awards System - McRenegades style. Just got to figure out the runners, riders and rules.
P.S. No authors were harmed in this rant - my main point is to encourage you to READ - any and everything you like, but make sure it's WHAT YOU LIKE not what you're told to like by anyone else (including me).