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December 2009

What a long strange trip it’s been… Six months since my last communication. The Complaints was published at the start of September and spent two weeks at number one in the UK (before some young buck called Dan Brown came calling). There were good reviews, along with plenty of positive feedback from fans. So maybe we’ll be seeing DI Malcolm Fox again. I certainly enjoyed getting to know him, and wouldn’t mind spending some more time with him. Maybe I could even introduce him to John Rebus - I’m sure Rebus would be thrilled to be talking to someone from Internal Affairs: no skeletons in his closet! As well as The Complaints, I’ve also published my first graphic novel, Dark Entries. Not everyone likes my take on John Constantine, but it was a hoot to write and many have found it equally entertaining to read. Might I try another comic book in the future? Dunno: never say never…

The Edinburgh Festival was the usual mental kaleidoscope - I witnessed an atrocious ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’, a fantastic ‘Antigone’, memorable comedy sets from Stewart Lee and Mark Thomas, and a rip-roaring ‘Pirates of Penzance’. The book festival seemed to take place in a fortnight-long monsoon, but we endured. I had a great time discussing graphic novels with Neil Gaiman and Denise Mina, and then made the mistake of stepping into the breach when James Naughtie couldn’t present the James Tait Black Awards. There was a power cut, meaning the fiction winner, Sebastian Barry, had to read from his novel with me shining the world’s smallest torch onto the pages. How we were passed over for a Fringe First Award is anybody’s guess….

I’ve been to Canada twice in the last half of the year - once mostly on holiday. Took the train from Saskatoon to Toronto, across the Canadian Shield. If I was going to write about a bunch of Canuck superheroes, that’s exactly what I’d call them - Canadian Shield. My second trip was to the Ottawa Literary Festival and the Toronto Harbourfront Festival. The latter had a real Celtic feel this year (thanks to input from the Scottish government). I got to spend time at two of my favourite bars in the world - Allen’s and Dora Keogh’s. If you’re ever in Toronto, check them out - they’re right next door to one another and do fantastic grub! Closer to home, I gave talks at festivals in Belfast, Inverness, Biggar, Stirling, and Richmond (Yorkshire). I also spoke to the inmates at HMP Perth and gave about a thousand interviews, one of which involved standing up to my ankles in the freezing Water of Leith while a photographer got the picture he wanted (for Lufthansa Magazine, I seem to recall).

As I write this, I’m just back from Greece - four cities in five days. I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing, but I did get a notion for ‘Doors Open 2’…. Speaking of which, there’s some interest in filming that particular book. Actually, there’s a lot of interest in ‘The Complaints’, too. But right now, my thoughts are on James Hogg’s nineteenth-century novel, ‘Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner’. Have I mentioned this before? I must have. My screenwriting friend James Mavor and I have been working on this project for a while. Many have tried before us to create a workable script from what can often seem an unfilmable novel. We feel we’re getting close, but that may be the drink talking….

It hasn’t been a great year for music, has it? I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff. The Fence Collective can still be relied upon for new and interesting sounds, and artists such as Pictish Trail and James Yorkston go from strength to strength. Thanks to a friend who knows a guy who knows a guy I got to shake Brian Wilson’s hand backstage in Glasgow. I also got to take my son to see Bob Dylan, Jack Bruce and Malcolm Middleton. Theatre event of the year for me took place outside the Edinburgh Festival season - it was ‘Beggars Opera’ at the Lyceum, enlivened by a spectacular set and costumes and the onstage music of A Band Called Quinn. If the second trailer is still up on the Lyceum’s website, it’s worth checking out so you can see what you missed.

The year isn’t quite over yet, of course. I’ve got my tickets for Bill Wyman, Gong, Steve Earle, and Joe Bonamassa. Plus I’ve got events in London and Manchester and Edinburgh (for ‘Dark Entries’), and an intriguing double-header in Brighton with Goldie (3 December). I’m also doing a TV documentary for Sky Arts about my favourite paintings. And then it’ll be Christmas….

In most of the interviews I’ve done recently, I’ve been saying that I’m taking a sabbatical in 2010. This is because I’m moving from one book a year to one book every two years. So I can put my feet up next year, right? Ummm… not looking at my diary I can’t. I’ve already agreed to a tour in India (January), a literary festival in Sri Lanka (January), an event in Barcelona (February), a German tour (March), events in Lyon and Paris (April) plus the Cuirt Festival in Galway (also April). I’ll be at the Harrogate Crime Festival in July, and the Mantua Festival (Italy) in September. Great for my air miles, but meaning a lot of carbon offsetting.

Some of you will know that I’ve discovered Twitter - look for me under the username Beathhigh. That was my old school - Beath High in Cowdenbeath. Trouble is, I’m cack-handed when it comes to technology, so I don’t tweet when I’m away from home… and as you’ve just seen, I’m going to be away a lot in 2010. So if I don’t see you next year, I’ll see you through a window. (Name that film….)

 
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