Review: The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor

The Backstreets of Purgatory is the debut novel by Helen Taylor. Released by Unbound, a publishing label whose books are crowdfunded fully by supporters, it tells the story of Dunkeld-born art school student Finn Garvie. His ambition is to be Glasgow’s modern day answer to the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio, but sadly he’s not really succeeding due to a number of reasons – until he meets a man who claims to be Caravaggio himself. Can this man help Finn to get his life together and advance his budding artistic career?

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Review: Hell, Dante’s Divine Trilogy Part One by Alasdair Gray

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) was written over eight years and completed in 1320, a year before the author’s death, and is considered to be a classic of world literature. It describes the author’s imagined journey through Hell in the first part, followed by Purgatory in the second part, and the third concluding with his eventual arrival in Heaven. It is well known for its vividly imaginative portrayal of the afterlife, and has seen many translations and interpretations throughout the years. The latest one is courtesy of Alasdair Gray, famously described by Will Self as “a creative polymath with an integrated politico-philosophic vision”.

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Review: The Flame by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s death from leukaemia in November 2016 brought the curtain down on an illustrious and prolific music career that spanned five decades. As well as the ubiquitous Hallelujah, which has been covered over three hundred times in numerous different languages, Cohen’s other famous songs include So Long Marianne, Suzanne and Bird on a Wire to name a few. He won numerous awards throughout the course of his life, including a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2010 and the inaugural New England PEN Award for Excellence in Lyrics in 2012, as well as being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Before his music career took off, however, Cohen published his first poetry compilation, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956, and would go on to publish twelve more books including two novels.

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Review: Neu! Stoney

Stonehaven Town Hall on the town’s Market Square is busy and in darkness tonight, but it adds to the atmosphere of the evening’s entertainment, alongside the films about Victorian medical procedures that flash in the background. This is offset nicely by the BYOB arrangement, designed to give a ‘house party’ feel to tonight’s Neu! Reekie!.

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Review: Fishnet by Kirstin Innes

Kirstin Innes’ debut novel, Fishnet, was first published by Freight Books in 2015 to critical acclaim. Subsequently it went on to win the Guardian Not the Booker Prize later that same year, another accolade for Innes, one of the first recipients of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Award back in 2009. Unfortunately, Freight’s collapse late last year left Innes and her novel cast adrift without a publisher, along with many others. Luckily, Black & White Publishing came to the rescue in this case, and they brought the new edition to the shelves in July of this year.

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