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As I write this, I’m just back from a book tour in Canada. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed just how hectic that was –  no time for record shops, just the two trips to friendly pubs, but a slew of talks, interviews and signings. I can breathe a bit easier now (and catch up on sleep), but not for too long.


The next tour is the USA in late January, after which . . . well, some of you may have seen in the press that I’m taking the rest of next year off, insofar as I don’t plan to be writing a new full-length book. Instead, I’ll come up with some short stories for a collection to be published a year from now.


There’s also the small matter of the script of my stage play Dark Road, which will see the light of day at some point in 2014. The play, which premiered at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre in September, was a lot of fun to work on. (Thankfully, audiences seemed to like it too.) I’m not going to share any of the stories and anecdotes here –I’m hoping they’ll make it into one of the essays accompanying the script, which will be published next summer. But the question I’ve been asked since is: would I do it again? To which the answer is a resounding ‘maybe aye, maybe no’.


As soon as the run at the Lyceum finished, it was time to start promoting Saints of the Shadow Bible. Again, I’d like to thank those of you who’ve been in touch to say how much you liked it, or who reviewed it favourably on Amazon. I got a real buzz from making Rebus and Fox work together for the first time, and was never sure myself if they’d end up buddies or implacable foes. To be honest, that’s still ongoing – I’m not sure they’ll ever be sitting in one another’s living rooms, sharing war stories over drinks. Then again . . .


So, as 2013 draws to a close, I get to put together my year’s best. If you read the Guardian, you may have seen my book choices. They were: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Straight White Male by John Niven, Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, and Let the Games Begin by Niccolo Ammaniti. Too late to be included on that list, I also devoured Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, a novel of Dickensian length, immersiveness and thoroughness. As for albums of the year . . . Well, I started with a shortlist of thirty, stretching all the way back to January.  Those that didn’t quite make the top ten were: Eagleowl, Mogwai, Ian McNabb, Frightened Rabbit, My Bloody Valentine, Roy Harper, Goldfrapp, Grand Gestures, Darkside, Low, Camera Obscura, Duckworth Lewis Method, Pastels, Matt Berry, Lloyd Cole, Luke Haines, Bill Callahan, Roddy Hart, Blow Monkeys and Kathryn Williams – testament to how strong a year I think it’s been for the much-disparaged ‘album’.


My top ten of 2013:


  1. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time
  2. Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red
  3. David Bowie – The Next Day
  4. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
  5. Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
  6. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
  7. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film
  8. Pere Ubu – Lady from Shanghai
  9. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
  10. Quickbeam – Quickbeam

 (Listen to the playlist on Spotify.)


Reissue of the year for me: the Boards of Canada back catalogue on vinyl. Original copies fetch a king’s ransom, so it was good to be able to pick these up – lovely editions, too, though with occasional sonic blips. I suppose I should have said Kickback City by Rory Gallagher – but as I contributed a private eye story to that (beautiful) package, it gets ruled out.


Gig of the year: a tough choice this. I loved the Doogie Paul Memorial Concert in Edinburgh in August, but as I was the MC on the night, I decided (again) it probably didn’t count. Camera Obscura played a blinder at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room to celebrate the release of their latest album, and the Aberfeldy Festival was as much fun as usual. In the end though it was a toss-up between the witty and moreish Public Service Broadcasting at a rafters-jammed Caves, and Halloween’s explosive Nick Cave gig at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. And Cave does win the toss – I doubt he’s ever lost one . . .


One weird lacuna – I can’t think of a film of the year. Maybe I just didn’t get round to seeing enough of them, and no new release has whetted my appetite like the forthcoming annual showing of Muppet Christmas Carol at Edinburgh Filmhouse. I doubt I’ll be seeing Rebus there. He’ll be at home with his beer, his records and something black and white on the TV.


This year seems to have been busier than ever. The new novel, the stage play, the Rory Gallagher project. And there are TV and film things bobbing about too. I plan for next year to be quieter – a lot quieter. I’ve lost too many friends this year. I plan to honour their memory by doing some more living.


Give some big hugs this Christmas, and don’t forget to look forward as well as back when the bells ring out at the year’s midnight.