Friday, 19 August 2016

Edinburgh Book Festival 2016: Happy Days

I've had a lot of fine times in Edinburgh but this week's visit was the best, no doubt about it. Beautiful summer weather, for one, and it lasted until the morning of my departure when things took a turn back toward the dreich city we know and love. Above all, though, the events were fascinating, the company great, the sense of literary community hugely lively. The Festival Bookshop was even stocking my entire oeuvre, which I've never before seen all in one place outside of my bedroom.

My spot of Tuesday night chairing with Ian Rankin was great fun and surprisingly simple, just because Ian is a hugely assured and at-ease performer, with an audience of readers who are avidly interested in the minutiae of his work. In a world exclusive he read some manuscript pages from the forthcoming Rebus, Rather Be The Devil, which takes its title, to my delight, from John Martyn.

The R4 Open Book panel at EIBF, snapped by Jose Machado
Wednesday was a huge engrossing morning, beginning with a special recording for BBC Radio 4's Open Book, a symposium on the novel, politics and our times, with my friend and fellow Faber novelist Ben Markovits, winner of this year's James Tait Black Prize for fiction; the Festival's hugely impressive director Nick Barley; our emcee Mariella Frostrup; the recent winner of the 'Arabic Booker' Raja Alem; and your correspondent. My thanks to Kirsten Locke, Nicola Holloway and Di Spiers at Open Book for inviting me. Do listen in this Sunday August 21, 1600.

Mark Lawson, me, & Val McDermid (by Phoebe Grigor)
And on Wednesday evening I shared an author event in the Spiegeltent with Mark Lawson, who spoke feelingly and with impressive candour about the personal experiences that shaped his recent novel The Allegations. I chatted away about The Knives, and found the capacity crowd very engaged and encouraging. To my joy a French gentleman in the crowd (himself a novelist, as he revealed to me in the signing tent later) asked me to expound about Dostoyevsky.

Mark and I had the benefit of being chaired by Val McDermid, literary royalty in the locality and elsewhere, and I was quite stunned by the generosity of how fastidiously Val had prepared for the discussion, taking great care in the choice of questions and conversational linkages. A star, for sure.

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