In this month's guest blog, I am joined by fellow Scot and Bishopbriggs resident, Paul Cuddihy. Paul's career as a journalist has taken him to a number of newspapers before joining the Celtic View where he is now the editor. He had the honour of writing the best-selling biography of the Celtic Football Club legend, Tommy Burns. Having written and published three novels through a traditional publisher, Paul has now joined the ranks of indie authors. I'll let him explain what his new book is all about.
‘I have never been able to resist a book about books.’ (Anne Fadiman)
At the beginning of 2013, I resolved to read more books. In the course of the year I managed to do just that. That was enjoyable in itself, but out of that has also come a new book in which I chart the whole experience – what books I read, how I came to choose them and what I thought about them, as well as writing about what else was going on in my life and in the world of literature.
‘Read All About It: My Year Of Falling In Love With Literature Again’ is also my first foray into the world of self-publishing, and I have to say that I found the whole experience to be an exhilarating one.
I had previously written a trilogy of historical novels, which had all been released through traditional publishers – Saints and Sinners (Black & White, 2010), The Hunted (Capercaillie 2011) and Land Beyond The Wave (Capercaille 2012). There was, of course, the thrill of publication, which, as every writer will tell you, can never be under-estimated.
However, it was also a frustrating experience at times – the absence (real or perceived) of any promotion, marketing or advertising of the books, the lack of control throughout the process; on one occasion I couldn’t agree with the publisher over the cover of the book, the debate eventually brought to a conclusion when I was told ‘Well, I’m paying for the design, so we’re going with the one I like!’ (I still hate the cover chosen, incidentally).
With Read All About It, I have had none of these frustrations. The cover, for example, was designed by a friend and so was done in a spirit of co-operation and partnership. The end result was superb, and I hope that you do judge this book by the cover!
I’ve published Read All About It as a paperback through Amazon’s CreateSpace, and as an ebook through their Kindle Direct Publishing platform.
It’s been an easy and enjoyable process, and a self-confessed lover of the physical book, I have to confess that the finished product from CreateSpace is very impressive.
Of course, it’s the content which people will ultimately judge any book on and that, dear reader, is up to you to decide.
I read a lot of books during 2013, and enjoyed very many of them. It would be hard for me to choose my favourites, so for the purposes of this guest blog, I’ve chosen five books I read last year, which would be classed as Scottish, either through subject matter, author or both.
Hopefully, you’ll rush out and buy these books – after getting my book, of course – but I hope it’s also just a gentle reminder of literary talent that Scotland has produced and continues to produce. Will that continue after September 18? Let’s hope the answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes!’
Laidlaw: William McIlvanney
I felt disappointed in myself as a reader, a writer, a Scot and a Glaswegian that I’d never read any of William McIlvanney’s books. I could have tried to justify it in one of my general rants about the fact Scottish literature is not taught as widely in our schools as it should be, and there is a lack of awareness of such books. I actually don’t know if that’s true any more. It was in my day, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been inside a classroom. I’m also forty-seven-years-old, so whatever I may or may not have been taught in the dim and distant past, there’s no excuse for not having rectified any gaps in my Scottish literary education in the intervening period.
Most importantly, there’s no excuse for having ignored what turned out to be a great book. Scottish crime writers are renowned the world over – think Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Val McDermid, to name but three – and McIlvanney is often cited as the godfather of what is called ‘tartan noir’. Apparently he hates that title, although is probably more appreciative of McDermid’s description of him as ‘the Clark Gable of Scottish crime fiction’.
Laidlaw is a captivating character, and it was refreshing to read a book where I recognised the setting, even if it did involve a trip down memory lane to recall a Glasgow that doesn’t exist any more. I followed that up with the other two books in the Laidlaw trilogy – The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties – both of them equally as good.
Indeed, The Papers of Tony Veitch contains one of the best first lines I’ve ever read – ‘It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare.’ Wow! That sentence takes my breath away. If that doesn’t make you run out and get the book, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you! If you’ve already read McIlvanney’s trilogy, you’ll know how good they are. If not, do so as a matter or urgency. You’ll thank me for it later.
You Have To Be Careful in the Land of the Free: James Kelman
Among the very many enjoyable aspects of my ‘Read All About It’ project was the fact that I finally managed to read (and enjoy) a James Kelman novel. Kelman is considered to be one of Scotland’s greatest ever novelists, but for some reason I have struggled in the past with his work. Emboldened by the fact I was reading a lot more last year, I decided to tackle You Have To Be Careful In The Land Of The Free.
In an ideal world, I would read Kelman’s novel in one sitting, since it is a stream of consciousness narrative taking place over a few hours. I can immediately appreciate the absolute skill involved in being able to tell a story in that style and, more importantly, keep the reader (me) engaged. Kelman’s novel is superb, absolutely captivating in its detail and very thought-provoking. It’s worth noting, given that it was written in 2004, how prescient it is now, nine years later, with America’s ongoing ‘war on terror’, an alarming increase in surveillance, both domestic and international, as well as an upsurge in general suspicion of the ‘stranger’ in our midst. Unfortunately, like many things which happen in the United States, this is mirrored in Britain. Kelman wrote a prophetic novel, which is both admirable and chilling.
Apparently the ongoing leaks from former CIA employee, Edward Snowden has prompted an upsurge in the number of people buying and reading George Orwell’s 1984. Everyone should read it, and then be very scared. They should read Kelman’s You Have To Be Careful In The Land Of The Free as well. It is a masterful novel.
Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble: Graham Hunter
I mostly read novels throughout my ‘Read All About It’ project in 2013, but one of the few non-fiction books, and one of the few football books I read was Graham Hunter’s book, Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble, which tells the story of the Spanish national football team and their unique success in winning three consecutive football tournaments – the European Championship in 2008, the World Cup in 2010, and the Euros again in 2012.
Hunter, a Scottish journalist based in Barcelona, has enjoyed unique access to the Spanish squad, partly through his work with football’s two main governing bodies, UEFA and FIFA, and so is in a perfect position to tell this fantastic sporting story. That he achieves what he sets out to do is due in no small part to his talent as a writer. It is an utterly captivating book and it was with real reluctance whenever I had to put it down.
It helped, too, that I went to see him at an event in the Glasgow Film Theatre to launch the book. Hunter talks as well as he writes – he’s already written a best-selling book about FC Barcelona’s success – and the fact that over three hundred people turn up for the event is testimony to that.
I actually bumped into Graham Hunter in the press box of the Nou Camp before Celtic’s game against Barcelona and complimented him on his excellent book. I’d recommend reading it before this summer’s World Cup. It offers a brilliant insight into Spain’s football success.
Take Me Home: Daniela Sacerdoti
Daniela Sacerdoti was born in Italy but her home is now Scotland, which is also in her heart. And her second novel, Take Me Home, is based in the same fictional Highland village of Glen Avich as her previous novel, Watch Over Me, which was wonderful.
When I say her previous novel, I’m doing Daniela a disservice. Not only is she talented, but she has a prodigious output, having written books for children, young adults and adults – seven in total to date – and I remain very impressed by the quantity and quality of her writing, while slightly guilty at the paucity of mine.
I didn’t used my Kindle much in 2013, outwith the times I was away on holiday, but I made an exception to read Take Me Home. This was due to the fact that the e-book was released in December, while the physical version isn’t published until April 2014. It’s an unusual strategy from Black & White Publishing, and it will be interesting to find out what impact this has on sales of the physical book when it is released. Their decision may have something to do with the phenomenal e-book success of Daniela’s previous novel, Watch Over Me, which can boast of e-book sales approaching half a million. That is an incredible figure, and the publishers may simply be acknowledging that audience which has been created.
I would guess that both Watch Over Me and Take Me Home have a higher percentage of female readers, though I’m loathe to label either of them ‘chick lit’. It’s a lazy categorisation which might stop some of you reading the books, and while the elements of romance, drama and magic might seem, at a casual glance, to be aimed primarily at women, both novels are just extremely good stories.
Daniela writes beautifully, which I admit with much admiration and not a little envy, and Take Me Home, a story of love, loss and never forgetting who you are and where you come from, is a book I can’t put down, finishing it within three days of starting it.
The Walk Home: Rachel Seiffert
The last book I read in 2013 was one that isn’t published until April 2014. The novel in question is The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert, and it was delivered to me at work along with a handwritten postcard. ‘Dear Paul Cuddihy – Rachel Seiffert requested me to send you a copy of her new novel, to be published in April, with her best wishes. Thanks, Zoe Hood.’
I was thrilled, delighted and not a little surprised. I had contact with Rachel a few years ago at a time when the Celtic View magazine, of which I am the editor, was publishing short stories every month from new and established writers. Rachel was very keen to write something for us but due to various reasons – work and family commitments – it never came to pass. So I was touched that she thought to send me her new novel, allowing me to read it months before everyone else.
The novel is set in Glasgow, and there is much about the story that is entrenched in the city of the past and the present, but it’s also a book which examines family life – the ties that bind, sometimes oppressively so, and what happens when those ties are undone.
I loved the book because it is about my city, and also because it’s so well-written. The characters are recognisable and real, some of them appealing and some of them less so, but still engaging nevertheless. If I’m being honest, part of the appeal of The Walk Home was feeling that I was in a privileged position of getting to read the preview copy so that I could bore people for a few months by telling them how good it is and that they should buy it when it’s published. This doesn’t happen to me very often – ever – so please indulge me in this instance.
I finished Rachel Seiffert’s book in the early hours of December 31, 2013 and woke up on Hogmanay with a (small) sense of achievement. I am the man of a million ideas, none of which ever seem to come to fruition, and so to have set myself this task and seen it through represented a breakthrough for me.
In writing about my literary journey throughout 2013, I wanted to celebrate the joy of reading and the beauty of books. I hope that Read All About It manages to achieve that.
You can get in touch with Paul through his Facebook page or on twitter @paulthehunted, and read more about him and his work at his website www.paulcuddihy.com.
‘Read All About It: My Year Of Falling In Love With Literature Again’ by Paul Cuddihy is out now as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.
I'd like to thank Paul for contributing this brilliant piece. I hope it inspires you to read more books, starting with Paul's of course.