Books for Adults
Rocking on is a collection of some of the On the Green columns from the late, lamented Arran Voice newspaper. It has been produced in order to make some money so that the paper may continue and start to develop again, so all sales go directly to it.
If you'd like a copy at a fiver, contact me via this site and I will send you one, post free. It's quite funny, with a silly wee drawing for each story.
Kenneth Grahame: An Innocent in the Wild Wood
As a child, The Wind in the Willows was my favourite book. I read it again and again, and still have the cloth-bound octavo edition given to me by my grandmother when I was seven. Several decades later, I wondered idly what Grahame was like as a person, and read Peter Green’s 1959 biography, which was the most recent available. It left me feeling that there was more to be said about this shy, sensitive man, and maybe more to find out.
The book took seven years to research, and such a heavy investment in time left me almost bankrupt, but the fascination of it never wavered.
Hans Christian Andersen:
The Fan Dancer
This was an even harder book to research. Andersen is only known for a handful of his stories for children, but he was a prolific writer, turning out novels, plays and poems at a reckless rate. Quite a lot of his work has never been translated into English, so I had to learn Danish in order to have access to this material.
My reading of his letters and diaries convinced me that Andersen’s unhappiness, so evident even in the classic children’s stories, stemmed from a fiercely suppressed homosexuality. Once this is understood, a story such as The Little Mermaid takes on a heart-breaking poignancy. Danish academics were surprisingly hostile to this interpretation, but it seems absolutely clear to me that this lonely man was a victim of the rigid prejudices of the time, deprived of the love he so desperately needed. It is in my view this very deprivation that gives his stories their peculiar and uneasy resonance. They are truly multi-layered, and because of Andersen’s vulnerability, combined with meticulous craftsmanship, they work perfectly at every level. But the perceptive adult reader cannot fail to be moved by Andersen’s carefully-coded revealing of his sufferings.
The Whifflet Train
After nine years, I’m immensely happy to have another book of poems published. Poetry is a particularly fascinating form of the writing game, and I often wish I could devote all my time to it.
Out of print, but available through libraries
This novel was published at a difficult time in A&B’s history, and died only a few months after its unheralded birth. In that short time, however, it provoked more fan-mail than anything else I’ve written. It’s a double narrative spanning three centuries, but it’s basically about the witchcraft of common sense, which I suppose is why people liked it. Apologies to all those who have asked for its reappearance; this seems difficult to bring about.
Oddly, this book of essays still makes its way among people interested in creativity. It was written in 1992 during an acutely frustrating period of working as a Fellow in Creative Writing at Jordanhill College, now part of Strathclyde University. Most of its subversive opinions are even more relevant now than they were at the time.
These poems were published in 1994. I’ve continued to write poetry since that time, publishing widely in anthologies and winning the Literary Review’s Grand Poetry Prize of £5,000 in 1998. I won this prize for a second time in 2006
This volume was a collection of pieces written for a local newspaper. I went on writing these for The Arran Voice, and now have enough for at least one new collection, which will please all the people who have kept asking for them.
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