We don’t quite have the timings finalised but we’re bursting with excitement about the fantastic line-up for 2018 and can’t wait to share it with you. Roughly speaking, we have Saturday with the Stevensons, with Sunday being devoted to Muriel Spark. In addition we have Anne Hamilton for the Writers’ Workshop on Saturday morning and Denise Mina on Saturday evening for the Stonefield Session.
As usual we begin with the writers’ workshop run by Anne Hamilton. The theme this year will be Constructing Your Short Story. It has often been said that it is harder to write a short story than a novel. Maybe Anne has some answers!
Saturday with the Stevensons
Included in this category is Bella Bathurst, whose novel The Lighthouse Stevensons won the 1999 Somerset Maugham Award. We all know that Robert Louis Stevenson came from a family of lighthouse engineers but perhaps we don’t realise the incredible catalogue of their work. Over four generations, they built every lighthouse round Scotland, developing as they went inventions in both construction and optics.
Joseph Farrell’s book, Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa, provides little original material but is a delight to read. Stevenson went to the South Pacific to cure his tuberculosis, having travelled through France on a donkey and roughed it in California. He settled with his remarkable wife Fanny on the Polynesian island of Upolu, clearing undergrowth in appalling conditions to create a home and grow food. He was given the local name Tusitala — “Teller of Tales”.
Liz Shaw’s evocative and fast-moving tale set in Skye and the West Highlands, No Safe Anchorage, invokes the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson whose childhood it portrays. She says, “I’m interested in this period of history because it was a time of rapid change that caused disruption and heartache to so many people and provides a rich source for the imagination.”
Les Wilson is a writer, and an award-winning documentary maker who specialises in Scottish historical subjects. The Drowned and The Saved tells what happened when the loss of two British ships crammed with American soldiers bound for the trenches of the First World War brought the devastation of war directly to the shores of Islay. Les Wilson outlines these terrible events, painting a vivid picture which also pays tribute to the astonishing bravery of the islanders, who risked their lives pulling men from the sea, caring for survivors and burying the dead.
The Stonefield Session with preceding whisky tasting, sponsored by Springbank, welcomes back award winning Glasgow crime writer Denise Mina. Author of over 12 crime novels and 4 graphic novel adaptations, The Long Drop is her first foray into true crime. This is the story of Peter Manuel, a serial killer operating in the 1950s in Glasgow. His intriguing story baffled police until the wrongly imprisoned widower was set free and undertook his own investigation. The Long Drop is a re-imagining of the trial and of one drunken night the two men spent carousing in Glasgow.
Sparks at the Starfish
On Sunday our theme is more lighthearted as we move to the Starfish restaurant and open with a double bill of Muriel Spark. Ms Spark would have been 100 this year so we are more than happy to be joining the celebrations.
The first event here is a double bill with Alan Taylor and Olga Wojtas – refreshments will be available to purchase, while the second is an exciting experiment for us – a meal with a purpose.
Alan Taylor was fortunate to have been allowed to interview Muriel Spark at her home in Italy in 1990. A genuine friendship ensued, which lasted until her death in 2006. Taylor’s familiarity with his subject gave him privileged access and insight into the many controversies of Spark’s colourful life. His memoir, Appointment in Arezzo is a valuable adjunct to Martin Stannard’s biography.
In Olga Wojtas’ novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, the story features the adventures of Shona Aurora McMonagle, a former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School For Girls. Shona is no fan of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, or “That Book” as she refers to it so what follows must be somewhat ironic. It has been described as ‘a fast-paced tale of time-travel, murder, mayhem, matchmaking and manners – a crime novel for those people who think they don’t like crime novels’ and if you’re wondering how Olga Wojtas manages to bring it all off, come and ask her!
Struan Stevenson MEP represented Scotland in the European Parliament since 1999. He is an author and international lecturer on the Middle East and Human Rights and was a former MEP for Fisheries. His 5th book, THE COURSE OF HISTORY – Ten Meals That Changed The World, reflects on the many decisions, with their historical consequences, which have been made over the dinner table, and have been accompanied (and perhaps influenced) by copious amounts of food and wine. In The Course of History Struan Stevenson brings to life ten such moments, exploring the personalities, the issues and of course the food which helped shape the course of history. Starfish’s wonderful chef (name) will recreate one of these menus and your ticket includes a 5 course taster (i.e. small portions) menu.