Storm’s Edge

Peter Marshall, William Collins, £25, published April 11

Subtitled Life, Death and Magic in the Islands of Orkney, Peter Marshall’s new, very readable history of the archipelago is a wonderful corrective to our tendency to see Scottish history through a lowland lens. Bookended by two visits - by James V in the summer of 1540 and Sir Walter Scott in 1814 - Marshall’s text examines how Orkney moved from being a territory of Norway to becoming part of Scotland and then Great Britain, albeit, as Marshall notes, “gradually, awkwardly and never completely.”

It’s a history that takes in the Reformation, witchcraft, battles, shipwrecks and the condescension of the author of Waverley and Ivanhoe. The result is a fresh take on the story of Scotland that reminds us that there is never one story.

I have, I am ashamed to say, never been to Orkney. But reading Marshall’s book might just tempt me to make the journey.

The Herald: Peter MarshallPeter Marshall (Image: free)


This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Naomi Wood, Phoenix, £16.99, out now

The big news in fiction this month is Andrew O’Hagan’s big, boisterous state-of-the-nation novel Caledonian Road (see this week’s cover feature). But there are quieter alternatives available too. Like this collection of short stories by the award-winning novelist Naomi Wood, author of Mrs Hemingway. Quieter but no less incisive. These smart, sly stories are dark, mischievous and funny, full of sex, anxiety, fear and anger, all fronted up by women willing to think and sometimes say the unsayable. The result is as sharp as a paper cut.


Percival Everett, Mantle, £20, April 11

This year is shaping up well for the award-winning author Percival Everett. American Fiction, Cord Jefferson’s adaptation of Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and this month sees the writer’s new book James published in a very handsome package designed by Ami Smithson.

James sees Everett burrowing into American literature and reimagining Mark Twain’s classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But he opts to tell the story from the perspective of the enslaved James as he and Huck journey down the Mississippi by raft. According to author Hernan Diaz, “this brilliant novel rewrites literary history to let us hear the voices it has long suppressed.” It’s also worth saying, it is painful, brutal and darkly funny.

73 Dove Street

Julie Owen Moylan, Penguin, £9.99, April 11

April sees the paperback release of Julie Owen Moylan’s 1950s London novel which charts the lives of three women whose lives are drawn together in a shabby boarding house in a drab, grimy city still marked by the war. The result is a snapshot of a moment in time and the position of women within it. Shall we catch the bus to Soho?


Me and Mr Jones

Suzi Ronson, Faber, £20, out now

This is great. A behind-the-scenes look at David Bowie as he became Ziggy Stardust. It was Ronson who gave Bowie the flaming red spiky haircut which became the Ziggy trademark and she then went on the road with Bowie and his band The Spiders from Mars as stylist and hairdresser (eventually marrying the band’s guitarist Mick Ronson).

Ronson pulls back the curtain on the sexism and misogyny of the 1970s music scene (all those teenage groupies), while at the same time capturing the thrill and excitement of the moment. She gives due credit to Bowie’s wife Angie as one of the prime movers in his career in the early years of the decade and offers up smart pen portraits of the likes of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. The result has all the snap and freshness of your favourite single.

The Herald: That Which AppearsThat Which Appears (Image: free)


That Which Appears

Thomas A Clark, Carcanet Poetry, £19.99, April 25

Geological time, the patterns of nature, a sense of Scottish place (a mapping of lochans, green islands, gulls and cold mountain streams), the possibility of language and the importance of paying attention. Thomas A Clark’s poetry is alive to all these vibrations. Born in Fife and still resident on Scotland’s east coast, Clark’s stripped-back poetry is a sensory delight. His terse yet concentrated lines hold a world of feeling. Carcanet have gathered together four book-length sequences, all of which draw on Clark’s experiences walking through the Highlands and Islands. There’s a darkening in tone as they proceed but the real delight is in the way that Clark, using the fewest number of words, can transport you to that landscape.

The Herald: Prospect Cottage: Derek Jarman’s HouseProspect Cottage: Derek Jarman’s House (Image: free)


Prospect Cottage: Derek Jarman’s House

Gilbert McCarragher, Thames & Hudson, £25, out now

In 1986, the year he was diagnosed with HIV, the artist, film-maker, author, gay activist and diarist Derek Jarman bought Prospect Cottage in Dungeness in Kent, at the very edge of England. In the years following, up until his death in 1994, it became a sanctuary for him. In 1995 Thames & Hudson published Derek Jarman’s Garden, an account of the garden he created at the cottage written by Jarman and accompanied by photographs by Howard Sooley.

Almost 30 years later, the publisher is now publishing Gilbert McCarragher’s photographic essay on the cottage itself. Rarely open to the public, this is a privileged glimpse inside. Jarman’s partner Keith Collins changed little in the house and when he died in 2018 McCarragher, a friend and neighbour, was asked to document the cottage as an artwork in its own right. The result is both a superior slice of property porn and an insight into one of the great artists of the late 20th century.


Faux Parr

Martin Parr, Phaidon, £39.95, out now

Photographer Martin Parr has long been the most acidic chronicler of British life and in this new collection he turns his jaundiced eye on the world of fashion. Over the years Parr has worked with Vogue and such labels as Balenciaga and Gucci, but in every case the results remain first and foremost Parresque. The result is colourful and often a little comic. Patrick Grant and Tabitha Simmons also offer commentaries on Parr’s singular approach to fashion.

The Herald: Estelle MaskameEstelle Maskame (Image: free)


Somewhere in the Sunset

Estelle Maskame, Ink Road, £8.99, April 11

Peterhead’s Estelle Maskame has been a published author since she was a teenager. Now at the grand old age of 26 she has written her first adult romance novel after years writing young adult fiction. Chronicling the meeting of two heartbroken people and their subsequent will-they-won’t-they story, Somewhere in the Sunset mixes up love and sex and San Francisco. Maskame knows her audience and, crucially, knows how to play them.


Love and Rockets: The Sketchbooks

Fantagraphics, £75, April 23

From their 1981 self-published debut to the present day brothers Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have spent more than 40 years publishing their comic strips which have developed into two of the most sustained creative arcs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This hardback gather-up of their illustrations, posters, flyers, early comic strips and personal sketchbooks concentrates on their draughtsmanship. It’s a mere appetiser for the main course that is their ongoing comic strips, but it reminds us that their consummate storytelling has its foundations in the boldness and strength of their line work.