MINSTREL HEART

David Campbell

(Luath Press, £14.99)

When storyteller David Campbell came into this world, 86 years ago, Scots language and culture were viewed with disdain. This candid, absorbing autobiography tells of the part he played in their growing self-confidence and the “creative effervescence” that ensued. As a teacher, radio producer and performer, he’s long been dedicated to bringing Scottish audiences the best of their culture, in poetry, drama, story and song. But this memoir also recounts his nocturnal life in Edinburgh, drinking whisky, talking poetry and holding literary soirees that morphed over time into “Traveller-style ceilidhs”. He’s also loved so many women that the hardest task for the reader is keeping track of them all. Campbell evokes the captivating vision of a time of adventure and opportunity, when people owned less but perhaps dared more. He also drops a bombshell concerning a member of Churchill’s cabinet, kept to himself until now, that even the most imaginative storyteller couldn’t make up.

HeraldScotland:

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF THOMAS WEIR

Andrew Neil MacLeod

(Burning Chair, £8.99)

For the first of a projected series, lexicographer Dr Johnson is recast as the Sherlock Holmes of his day, even endowed with a handful of the great detective’s epigrams, with dear friend and future biographer James Boswell as his Watson. Johnson appears to have been agnostic on the subject of the supernatural, and had been part of a team that debunked London’s Cock-Lane Ghost. In MacLeod’s novel, no sooner has he arrived in Edinburgh on his famous Scottish tour in 1773 than he is challenged by a newspaper to solve the mystery of a hideous apparition in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The pair soon stumble across several interweaving plots which propel them towards a sinister cult and a subterranean city. A little macabre in places, it’s a pacey, diverting detective thriller in the vein of Kaite Welsh’s Sarah Gilchrist novels and Oscar de Muriel’s Frey & McGray series.

HeraldScotland:

MONSTERS

Alison Croggon

(Scribe, £14.99)

For Alison Croggon, estrangement from her sister is about more than just personal differences or family discord. The roots of the breakdown in their relationship are embedded in something much bigger. In this series of essays, she views her white middle-class Australian family as “an empire in miniature”, imbued with the violent and oppositional nature of the colonialism that built her country. Restless and questioning, she spins from intimate reflections to Australia’s inability to come to terms with its colonial legacy and back again. Her arguments rely on resonances rather than precise analogy and inevitably throw up contradictions and questions of their own. Croggon wants to put herself under the microscope but agonises over telling her story, reasoning that her meditation on white privilege comes at the expense of other narratives, thus perpetuating the dominance she deplores. But in its fragmentary nature, Monsters brings up interesting insights on trauma, power relations and the pathology of families.

ALASTAIR MABBOTT