An hour of poems old and new followed, and those from 1999's The World's Wife, relating the inner feelings of Mrs Midas, Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faust, were like a punchy medley of greatest hits.
Later, Alexander McCall Smith discussed the 15 years since his creation Precious Ramotswe "sashayed into literary consciousness". A great raconteur, he laughed unselfconsciously at his own jokes and, just because he was so delighted with it, gave away a few secrets about his next Scotland Street novel. There was also time to mention a forthcoming work about WH Auden, and slip in an anecdote about seeing the great man reading at the George Square Theatre with his flies open.
As imagery goes, the mental picture of Ian Curtis chasing a tom-tom down a motorway may just have that beat. The Manchester music scene is famous for bizarre incidents, many of them witnessed by Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook - though Pat Phoenix racing around the corridors of Granada TV to score a joint from Tony Wilson was a new one on me. Interviewed by fan Ian Rankin, Hook made several digs at his estranged bandmate Bernard Sumner, but seems to have gained a new perspective and sense of responsibility.
Twenty years after featuring on Granta's 1993 Best of Young British Novelists list, Tibor Fischer, Candia McWilliam and Adam Mars-Jones got together to compare notes. The air quickly turned nostalgic, the consensus being that editors were more easy-going back then, dealing with their authors with "benign neglect", and not yet slaves to marketing. Mars-Jones, bless him, even got misty-eyed at the memory of moveable type.
Feeling he had to explain why he'd broken his run of "big, sad books" with an absurd comedy, Italian novelist Niccolo Ammanati offered: "I like to laugh - so this book represents me more than the tragedies." Simple as that. He also talked about having a child psychiatrist for a father and sending his sister to see what their dad actually did for a living. She returned after 45 minutes and said: "I think he's a babysitter."
With the possible exception of Peter Hook, Ann Widdecombe had the greatest experience of dealing with crowds, and has public appearances down to a fine art. And there was so much to talk about, such as how gay marriage meant that "the words husband and wife are no longer legally recognised". Interesting as it was to hear how Michael Portillo came back from the political wilderness a different man, and not one she liked, the tease that she was moving into crime fiction wasn't followed up.
Until now, I'd been unaware of comic-book artist Chris Ware, but his work is revelatory: frozen moments captured in beautifully precise art. Ware gave clues to the way he approaches the "weird, delicate balance" of words and pictures, and how he takes into account the way the brain works. "I'm trying to create an image that is so clear you almost don't see it," he said, which made more sense when you could see the pictures too.
Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews is an avid collector of songs, and an advocate of switching off The X Factor and just making a glorious noise. From My Bonnie to Let's Go Fly A Kite, any genre will do as long as it gets people singing. "So you don't want to sing Y Viva Espana, gentlemen?" she slyly called after a couple of guys who were slipping out early. Her show would work better in a less cavernous space, but she's got the right idea.
Of the two pens I took into the Kirsty Wark-chaired Independence Debate, one leaked and the other dried up. What that says about the choice facing Scottish voters is open to interpretation, but it may have something to do with oil. The most interesting speaker was actually the "agnostic", Tom Devine, his status later downgraded to "pseudo-agnostic" as his sympathies started to show through some astute observations.
A session marking the 50th anniversary of Muriel Spark's The Girls Of Slender Means was a delightful literary love-in. As audience members chimed in with personal recollections of Spark's Edinburgh family, authors praised her expert handling of this clever and subtle novel. "She's playing with time at the deepest level," suggested Candia McWilliam. Toby Litt had his own take: "I think she wrote books to teach people how to read the books she'd written previously."
Having suffered depression, Ruby Wax knows it will one day strike again, but, armed with a degree in Mindfulness, believes she has the tools to minimise its impact, and wants to share them. She's the same irrepressible wit we know from TV, but here her jokes were a garnish to a cause she believes in rather than an end in themselves.
Two poetry-loving fiction writers, American Ron Rash and Spaniard Manuel Rivas, shared the Peppers Theatre stage. Rivas made up for limited English with a poem in Galician which climaxed with him dramatically throwing his papers in the air. Rash has a splendid Appalachian accent, which made his story of a farming family in the Depression riveting. His heartbreaking tale was received in rapt silence, proving his contention that, by immersing yourself in a specific geography, you can touch something universal.