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The Linlithgow Book Festival for 2013 promises once again to bring a range of superb Scottish writers to town to discuss their work and engage with readers.  The Book Festival is sponsored by local companies Palimpsest Publishers, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Book Sanctuary, The Line Gallery and Robert Callender Opticians and well supported by Visit West Lothian and West Lothian Council.  The Festival’s main events run over Saturday the 2nd and Sunday 3rd November but there’s a special treat to follow, on Friday 8th November.
On Saturday morning, 2nd November, local writer Andrew Philip will be running a poetry workshop in the Burgh Beautiful workbase in Clarendon House, while local artist, Leo de Feu, shares a session with John Fowler in the Masonic Hall.
The Masonic Hall then hosts some of Scotland’s best known writers who will spend Saturday at the Festival.  William McIlvanney, author of Laidlaw, is often characterised as the originator of the Tartan Noir crime genre, but the social and psychological realism of Docherty and The Big Man put his writing on a far wider plane.
James Kelman won the Booker Prize for his powerful but controversial novel, How Late It was, How Late, denounced by Julia Neuberger, one of the Booker Judges, as ‘a disgrace’ but now recognised as a modern Scottish classic.  His recent novel, Kieron Smith, Boy, won the Saltire Society Book of the Year Award.  It illustrated, if illustration were needed, the subtle skill of Kelman who succeeded in reproducing, in novel form, the language, thought processes and perceptions of a young boy.  James Kelman , no stranger to debate and political engagement, will bring a hard edge to the Festival and will introduce his new book, Mo said she was quirky.  This session will be chaired by The Herald columnist, Alan Taylor, a draw in himself.
A very different, but equally controversial figure, will be Richard Holloway.  The Sunday morning radio presenter and goad to the orthodox, published his autobiography, Leaving Alexandria, last year. It’s possibly a tribute to Richard Holloway, former primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, that I’ve never heard a bad word about him from atheists and agnostics. My Christian friends are much more critical.
Holloway explores (revels in) paradoxes in Leaving Alexandria.  He was born in Alexandria – Dunbartonshire, not Egypt, but the book is less about leaving Scotland than a journey in a metaphysical landscape.  His boyhood memories are brief: hard-working father, warm mother and frequent trips to the hills and the cinema. To these trips he attributes a restlessness, a romanticism, ‘a longing for something which eluded the searcher’.
His earlier book, Godless Morality: Keeping Religion out of Ethics, pitched him into controversy – to which he was never a stranger.  He asserted the impossibility of justifying any ethical position from the arguments, or even scriptures, of any particular religion.  Ethical precepts required to be justified by their human utility, not a popular view among his former friends in the various branches of Christianity.  He is a man who enrages many in the religious camp and pleases many outside it, yet Leaving Alexandria offers quite unique insights into a troubled, contemporary religious mind and Richard Holloway will bring unique observations to the Linlithgow Book Festival.
As always the Festival looks to attract younger readers.  Storyteller extraordinaire Renita Boyle  will be appearing with her new book, Not a Cloud in the Sky, suitable for children from nursery age to around P4, at 2 pm on Saturday 2 November at St John’s Church in Union Road. Anyone who has seen her in action will know that this is truly an event not be missed, so scribble the date and time in your and your children’s diaries now!
The last of the Saturday presenters is James Robertson, author of The Fanatic, The Testament of Gideon Mack and And the Land Lay Still.  Robertson’s work explores Scotland and Scottish society with a historian’s trenchant skill and it may well be that And the Land Lay Still will emerge as the novel which most incisively captures Scotland in the 60 years since the second world war.  His latest novel, The Professor of Truth explores the aftermath of the Lockerbie disaster and centres on a character at least not dissimilar to Jim Swire, the father of one of the Lockerbie victims and the insistent campaigner against the jailing of El Megrahi.
On the Saturday evening A Night in the Gutter , sponsored by Gutter magazine, once again showcases new writers.  Novelist Doug Johnstone and poets Andrew Philip and Patricia Ace will be reading, music will be provided by Holm and the evening will end with an open-mike event: all budding writers welcome!
This year’s Sunday event has a special feel to it: tea with Paul Bradford, who was a founder owner of the Linlithgow designer cake business Truly Scrumptious  and now runs the Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School, offers an indulgent  and sociable finale to the weekend – if not the Festival.
On the following Friday evening, the 8th of November, Chris Brookmyre will be the final Festival guest.  His heroes, investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane, and counter-terrorism officer, Angelique de Xavia, like Brookmyre himself, are larger than life, entertaining but with unique insights into the contemporary worlod.  Brookmyre, whose novels mix comedy, politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative, never fails to amuse as well as to enlighten and will discuss his two new novels, the SciFi Bedlam which was out in February, and the crime novel Flesh Wounds which concludes the Jasmine Sharp trilogy
Chris Brookmyre will round off with style what promises to be another successful chapter, entertaining, challenging and controversial in equal measures, in Linlithgow Book Festival.
Tickets for all events are available by post via   and from Far From The Madding Crowd and The Line Gallery, both in the High Street.

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