The Backstreets of Purgatory is launched into orbit

Standing room only at Waterstones on Byres Road

Ok, there is perhaps a slight exaggeration in the title of this piece but it pretty much describes how I’m feeling. It’s Monday and life should be back to normal but I’m still floating somewhere above Cloud 9.

On Thursday 19th July The Backstreets of Purgatory had its official launch party at Waterstones on Byres Road in Glasgow.

Book launch poster

What a fantastic night. Even with the chaos engendered by a wholly predictable technological failure. (Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have left it until midnight the night before to check that the computer and the projector were compatible, and yes, perhaps I should have checked earlier that there were in fact power leads for said projector.) The problems could have been overcome because I’d had the foresight to put the Caravaggio presentation on-line so that the audience could check their phones as I spoke. Only I was so emotional and in a flap that I forgot to mention it. The day was saved, however, by my glamorous assistant holding up A3 prints of the slides and waving them in the audience’s face.

 

To be honest, I’m not sure how many people were listening to me anyway because there was Irn Bru, cake and Tunnocks Teacakes to be had. I know the draw of Tunnocks Teacakes. And cake. I am in no way offended.

Cake
The best cake ever

It was standing room only by the time I got started. It was an absolute joy for me to have an audience full of family and friends, and to meet some of the people I’ve only ever met on-line or spoken to on the phone. I still can’t believe how far some people travelled to be there. I can’t tell you how touched I was. And I was thrilled that Carlo from the University Café came along. The interview I did with him was one of my first blog posts here.

After the presentation on Caravaggio, I intended to do a reading from chapter 13, Judith and Holofernes. In keeping with the nature of the proceeding thus far, I discovered that I’d left my copy of The Backstreets of Purgatory in my room. Fortunately, there was a stack of copies for sale. (I put back the one I borrowed when I’d finished. Hopefully without trace of my sweaty shaking hands. Sometimes I think it is harder to do a presentation to a room full of friends than a room full of strangers.)

Slide11
Judith and Holofernes by Caravaggio

A great Q&A followed the reading. Laura Rorato from the University of Hull (who, unlike me, is a real Caravaggio expert) had some exceptional questions although I didn’t answer a couple of them I didn’t want to give away the ending of the novel. We’re going to do a more in-depth interview when we have the chance.

Waterstones Book launch pic
A fantastic receptive audience

The overwhelming feeling for me, from Thursday night and from the whole experience of publishing with Unbound, is the warmth and generosity surrounding the book which comes from all the amazing people who supported it. It is brilliant to know that The Backstreets of Purgatory already has a substantial readership because of Unbound’s model.  I hope that now that it is on general release, it will find some new readers too.

 

Image credits

Photos by Alastair Cunningham and Alistair Braidwood

Judith and Holofernes by Caravaggio from Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

Why do we read fiction?

Fiction is a strange beast when you think about it. Made-up people in made-up worlds doing made-up things, and yet they have the power to make us laugh, cry, think, flinch, or just go to bed early to catch the next few chapters of their adventures. My own compulsion to read has puzzled me for a long time. I know I don’t feel right if I haven’t got a good book on the go. It doesn’t have to be fiction. I’m not exclusive (although, I admit, most of the time I am).

Why do we read fiction? Escapism, entertainment, sanctuary? If you are anything like me, you might feel there is something necessary about it, but perhaps like me also, you feel it instinctively though you’d be hard pushed to explain exactly what it is. Research on the psychology of reading fiction suggests that Continue reading “Why do we read fiction?”

The Sexy Test

‘Do you know what the lady is going to do, Harry?’

‘Yes, mummy. She’s going to do the test to see if I’m sexy.’

‘Almost, sweetie. It’s to see if you are dyslexic.’

True story. Oh how we giggled. But it isn’t a laughing matter for the kids and adults affected.

Even in this world of alternative technologies, the written word is still central to how the world functions (or how the world ends given the current battle of juvenile tweets between power-crazed despots). It has certainly Continue reading “The Sexy Test”

2017: A year of reading and writing

There is no more valuable a gift than a book that makes you laugh, cry or think 

It has been an interesting year of books. For (almost) the first time, I’ve read several novels by people I know. Either in person or virtually (although some of those virtual relationships are as strong as friendships in real life). I find it nerve-racking, those first few moment with the first few pages, sussing out whether it is going to be a book I’ll love or one that will do nothing for me. I feel a responsibility to enjoy the work of the people I like. Which doesn’t always happen. But when it does, it is wonderful.

Like Maria Donovan’s Chicken Soup Murders. Aside from the fabulous title, it was obvious from the opening that it was beautifully written. I read it immediately after Joanna Cannon’s fabulous The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and it compares very well. Or Chris McQueer’s Hings which had me laughing, cringing and spurting my tea out of my nose (often at the same time). Continue reading “2017: A year of reading and writing”

We can’t help but judge a book by its cover

The old saying says we shouldn’t but we do it all the time. Judge a book by its cover, that is. Publishers and marketing departments rely on it. That first impression that piques your interest or puts you off completely. The distinctive hallmarks of different genres. A certain style that brackets a debut novel with the latest bestseller. I’m talking fiction (and creative non-fiction) here although no doubt there are similar criteria that dictate the covers of non-fiction and academic books even if the specifics are different.

Picture the scene. You’re browsing in a bookshop, pennies burning a hole in your pocket, on the look out for something murderous or challenging, or perhaps you’re in the mood for a few laughs, or maybe you want a fast and furious thrill, or to chill with a light, easy read, and there’s a table of new fiction laid out before you. What do you do? Continue reading “We can’t help but judge a book by its cover”