Been a long time since we rock n rolled… But I’ve been busy, honest. The summer seemed to pass by in a blur. I did my first ever gig in Iceland. (Really nice people, but don’t rent a car from a company called Berg - our boneshaker broke down after 20 miles!) I also seemed to make several trips to Amsterdam - always fun. A small selection of my short stories was chosen as their annual ‘freebie’ and distributed in its hundreds of thousands at bookshops throughout the Netherlands… which was nice. I also opened the new visitor centre at the Glenfiddich distillery (and received a very nice bottle of whisky), performed at the Borders Book Festival in the gorgeous town of Melrose, and presented Ian McEwan with this year’s James Tait Black memorial prize here in Edinburgh. I even managed to get away with calling his books ‘cleverly disguised thrillers’… something he seemed to take as a compliment.
My actual summer holiday was spent at Port Appin, north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. Ate a lot of great seafood, fell in love with the Isle of Mull during a day trip, and read some good books. All of which helped recharge the batteries for the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival later on in July. The hotel was as hot as hell, but it was great to catch up with old friends. Then it was time for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival - I think I caught every gig Tommy Smith played. Around the same time, there was an exhibition of framed photos from Rebus’s Scotland at the Harvey Nicks on St Andrew’s Square, and I met King Creosote for the first time when a journalist interviewed us over more than a few beers at the Oxford Bar.
We hadn’t even reached Festival Fever yet, but I was still busy with bits and pieces of work. Vertigo Comics had contacted me, asking if I might be interested in pitching ideas at them. I sent them a storyline for Hellblazer, which everyone seems excited about, though nothing’s signed as yet. I also had a few meetings with artist Douglas Gordon, who wanted me to contribute a short story to an exhibition catalogue. The exhibition takes place late-October in Edinburgh, and to satisfy Douglas’s interest in split personalities and duality I delivered a story about an Edinburgh tour guide called Gordon Douglas (see what I’ve done there?). I also penned some lyrics for a collaboration with Arab Strap singer Aidan. The song is about ex-Rolling Stone and son of Pittenweem Ian Stewart and will feature on an album of collaborations between writers and musicians - more news as I get it.
And then the Festival arrived… And it was great. I saw some terrific shows and met some excellent people (including Kevin Smith, Brian De Palma, John Hurt, Harold Pinter, members of Mogwai, and Tilda Swinton). One of my favourite moments was when Seamus Heaney walked into the Oxford Bar. I felt able to enjoy myself, as I’d managed to finish (at last) the proofs of The Naming of the Dead. I also really enjoyed my two shows at the Book Festival. In one, I had a conversation with Denise Mina. We just chatted, same as we would if we’d been sitting in a pub rather than in front of an audience of 600. My second event was a bit different: the psychiatrist Raj Persaud interviewed me as if I were a new patient. The audience seemed to love it, though it was a bit unnerving to see J K Rowling seated a few rows back…
I managed a trip down to London for a Guardian interview (prior to ‘Fleshmarket Close’ being one of the paper’s book club choices). That was a very different interview again as Professor John Mullan focussed on themes and the structuring of whodunits. I think I probably learned as much as he did! Which brings us to September, itself a blur of filming. A BBC drama crew has been in town shooting a film called ‘The Acid Test’, which takes a short story of mine as its inspiration. It’s scripted by a friend from university days, who has created a tale about a thriller writer haunted by his creations. STV’s new series of Rebus films has also been on the telly. Seems to me they’ve done more filming on the streets of Edinburgh than previously, which is great. But what’s really been keeping me busy (and away from the computer) is that I’m fronting two BBC television documentaries, one on the writing of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and one on the writing of the Rebus books. The first will be shown on BBC4 in December, the second in April 2007. Filming is exhausting - much harder than writing a book - but I’ve learned a lot, been to some interesting new places, and gathered together a few ideas for stories.
And that’s about it. Phew, as they say in the trade. I see to have done a lot of media these past few months, so apologies if you’ve grown tired of seeing or hearing or reading about me. (On the other hand, for those who missed my hour-long appearance on the Phill Jupitus Show on BBC 6 Music on 15th September, you can catch it online at the BBC website.) Speaking of music… I also did Desert Island Discs. I had to whittle a longlist of hundreds down to an eventual shortlist of eight, which was incredibly hard and incredibly unfair. The eight selections were:
‘Double Barrel’ by Dave and Ansil Collins
‘Rage: Man’ by Mogwai
‘Solid Air’ by John Martyn
‘Atmosphere’ by Joy Division
‘Snow in San Anselmo’ by Van Morrison
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones
‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ by Belle and Sebastian
‘Linseed Oil’ by Jackie Leven
When asked to whittle it down to one track above all others, I plumped for the John Martyn. But I feel the need to record that just outside the final eight were tracks by Hawkwind, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Harris, The Cure, Wishbone Ash, Alex Harvey, The Who, Blue Nile, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Jesus and Mary Chain, Mutton Birds, Radiohead, REM, Mountain, Boards of Canada, King Creosote, Steven Lindsay, Pere Ubu, Bert Jansch, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Lloyd Cole, Arab Strap, L Pierre, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Zappa, The Zephyrs, The Bathers, the Allman Brothers.
Yes, dear reader, it was cruel and difficult - and a hell of a lot of fun!
By complete coincidence, the first finished copy of The Naming of the Dead arrived by post this morning. It looks grand. I opened it at random and was excited by what I read. That’s unusual for me: more often, I see things I should have rephrased. As far as I know, the book will be published on 18 October, and I’ll be touring to promote it. Hopefully, the tour dates can be found elsewhere in this site. The tour finishes on 3rd November, so I’ll probably start the next book on 4th November. As some of you know, it’s projected to be the ‘final’ Rebus, in that he will reach the age of 60 in 2007 and that’s when detectives in Scotland are forced into retirement. So far, all I’ve got is a title, and I’m keeping it under wraps (we may run a contest later on to see if any fan can guess what it is). But 2007 promises to be an amazing year, as I’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Knots and Crosses - celebrating it in some style, I can tell you. But more about that in the next newsletter.
For now, go enjoy yourselves.