Spooky Scottish reads for Halloween: Part Two (ghosts, horror and stories set in Scotland )

Welcome to Part Two of our round up of spooky Scottish reads to get you in the mood for Halloween. If you missed Part One you can find it here where we brought you recommendations for dark tales, short stories and wee reads. So, lets get on with it then…

Ghost Stories

Too Near the Dead by Helen Grant

This is one of my favourite creepy books from this year! Blurb? Sometimes it’s terrifying, loving someone this much…For Fen Munro and her fiancé James, it is a dream come true: an escape from London to a beautiful house in the stunning Perthshire countryside. Barr Dubh house is modern, a building with no past at all. But someone walks the grounds, always dressed in lavender. Under a lichenous stone in an abandoned graveyard, a hideous secret lies buried. And at night, Fen is tormented by horrifying dreams. Someone wants Fen’s happiness, and nothing is going to stop them – not even death…

Read our review here.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Alone in the world, Elspeth Swansome takes the position of nanny to a family on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. Her charge, Mary, hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared. No one will speak of what happened to William. Just as no one can explain the hypnotic lullabies sung in empty corridors. Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms. Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night…As winter draws in and passage to the mainland becomes impossible, Elspeth finds herself trapped. But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past?

Pine by Francine Toon

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

House of Spines by Michael Malone

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who had been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew grew up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-uncle Alexander has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman. A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and a reminder that lust and betrayal can be deadly…

Horror

I feel like with any run down of Scottish horror you have to start with the two classics that always spring to mind – The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner and Dr Jekyll and Hyde.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

A wretched young man, ‘an outcast in the world’, tells the story of his upbringing by a heretical Calvinist minister who leads him to believe that he is one of the elect, predestined for salvation and thus above the moral law. Falling under the spell of a mysterious stranger who bears an uncanny likeness to himself, he embarks on a career as a serial murderer. Robert Wringhim’s Memoirs are presented by an editor whose attempts to explain the story only succeed in intensifying its more baffling and bizarre aspects. Is Wringhim the victim of a psychotic delusion, or has he been tempted by the devil to wage war against God’s enemies? Hogg’s sardonic and terrifying novel, too perverse for nineteenth-century taste, is now recognized as one of the masterpieces of Romantic fiction.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R.L. Stevenson

In seeking to discover his inner self, the brilliant Dr Jekyll discovers a monster. First published to critical acclaim in 1886, this mesmerising thriller is a terrifying study of the duality of man’s nature, and it is the book which established Stevenson’s reputation as a writer.

Shrike and Bane by Joe Donnelly

There’s a few you could choose from with Joe Donnelly but I’ve picked out Shrike and Bane specifically because they’re the two I’ve read. In Shrike, a wee Scottish town is being terrorised by an evil that was awoken during a dark seance that had gone terribly wrong. There’s a LOT going on in this one from a crime fiction element to a psychic to a monster to the occult but if you’re a fan of old school paperback horror of the Stephen King ilk give it a go. In Bane, a wee Scottish down is being terrorised by evil…It’s a theme but it works.

(If you subscribe to that unlimited subscription service on that site that’s named after a river you’ll find Shrike and Bane included…just sayin’)

The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley

Edinburgh 1827. In the starkly-lit operating theatres of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces. Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city’s criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich. Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment – and no one is safe from its corruption.

The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir by Andrew Neil MacLeod

Edinburgh, 1773. A storm is coming. A storm that will shake the Age of Reason to its very foundations. When rumours spread of ghouls haunting Edinburgh’s old town, there is only one person who can help. Dr Samuel Johnson: author, lexicographer… and a genius in the occult and supernatural. With his good friend and companion, James Boswell, Dr Johnson embarks on a quest to unravel the hellish mysteries plaguing the city. But what they uncover is darker and more deadly than they could have ever suspected, an evil conspiracy which threatens not just the people of Edinburgh, but the whole of mankind. For the tunnels under Edinburgh’s Old Town hide a terrible secret…

Maggie’s Grave by David Sodergren

The small Scottish town of Auchenmullan is dead, and has been for years. It sits in the shadow of a mountain, forgotten and atrophying in the perpetual gloom. Forty-seven residents are all that remain. There’s nothing to do there, nothing to see, except for a solitary grave near the top of the mountain. MAGGIE WALL BURIED HERE AS A WITCH reads the faded inscription. But sometimes the dead don’t stay buried. Especially when they have unfinished business.

The Trickster by Muriel Gray

Life is good in Silver, a small town high in the Canadian Rockies. Sam Hunt is a lucky man. with a loving family and an honest income, he has everything he wants. But beneath the mountains a vile, demonic energy is gathering strength and soon it will unleash its freezing terror upon Silver. In the eye of the storm, one man struggles to bury the private horrors of his childhood. He knows nothing, yet seems to know everything: Sam Hunt. All he loves may be destroyed by an evil beyond imagining. An evil from the buried, hated past. An evil named the Trickster.

You might also be interested in checking out our round up of dystopian fictionfind it here

Unsettling Tales set in Scotland

The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse. A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms. Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation. Coincidence? Or curse? Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left. Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

Banquet for the Damned by Adam Neville

Few believed Professor Coldwell could commune with spirits. But in Scotland’s oldest university town something has passed from darkness into light. Now, the young are being haunted by night terrors and those who are visited disappear. This is certainly not a place for outsiders, especially at night. So what chance do a rootless musician and burned-out explorer have of surviving their entanglement with an ageless supernatural evil and the ruthless cult that worships it? A chilling occult thriller from award-winning author Adam Nevill, Banquet for the Damned is both a homage to the great age of British ghost stories and a pacey modern tale of diabolism and witchcraft.

By These Ten Bones by Claire B. Dunkle

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver’s daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves. There is an evil presence in the carver’s life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.

Black Cathedral by L.H. Maynard and M.P.N Sims

At an old manor house on a remote Scottish island, six managers of a large corporation arrive for a week-long stay. Within days they will all suffer horrifying deaths and their bodies will never be found. The government assigns the case to Department 18, the special unit created to investigate the supernatural and the paranormal. However this is no mere haunted house. The evil on this island goes back centuries, but its unholy plots and schemes are hardly things of the past. In fact, while the members of Department 18 race to unravel the island’s secrets, the forces of darkness are gathering… and preparing to attack.

Madam by Phoebe Wynne

For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be. But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.

Swansong by Kerry Andrew

Polly Vaughan is trying to escape the ravaging guilt of a disturbing incident in London by heading north to the Scottish Highlands. As soon as she arrives, this spirited, funny, alert young woman goes looking for drink, drugs and sex – finding them all quickly, and unsatisfactorily, with the barman in the only pub. She also finds a fresh kind of fear, alone in this eerie, myth-drenched landscape. Increasingly prone to visions or visitations – floating white shapes in the waters of the loch or in the woods – she is terrified and fascinated by a man she came across in the forest on her first evening, apparently tearing apart a bird. Who is this strange loner? And what is his sinister secret?

White Pines by Gemma Amor

A woman, returning to her roots. A town, built on sacred land. A secret, cloaked in tradition and lore. Welcome to White Pines. Don’t get too comfortable.

Black Cairn Point by Claire McFall

Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge. One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead…and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost. So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil – and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Spooky Scottish reads for Halloween: Part One (short stories, wee reads and dark tales)

If you’re looking for some creepy reads to get you in the mood for Halloween then don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here’s a HUGE list of scary Scottish books across the whole spooky spectrum. This is a mix of everything from Scottish writers, publishers or just set in Scotland, but hopefully there’s something for everyone.

Short Stories

There are so many incredible and creepy short story collections by Scottish writers so no doubt a fair few will have been missed from this list, but it’s a good place to start.

Mayhem and Death by Helen McClory

“Descriptively mythical yet recognisable stories woven from dark and light, human fear and fortune…A silent documentary through a terrible place….Mary Somerville, future Queen of Science….A coven of two. The book also includes novella Powdered Milk, a tale for the lost.

Scottish Ghost Stories by James Robertson

A classic, solid collection of Scottish ghost stories from the incredible James Robertson – his first book in fact. There are some famous stories here – like Glamis Castle or Major Weir (the subject of James’ The Fanatic – another ScotLitBlog recommendation!) – and others that may be less familiar. All are pretty creepy.

Uncanny Bodies (Anthology)

This is an anthology of work meant to unsettle you. As the blurb says, “the uncanny is a place where you feel at home – until home turns against you. It’s a city where the streets can’t join up. The uncanny alienates your own body from you through medical advances, such as prosthetic limbs or cardiac defibrillators. The ‘uncanny valley’ is a landscape where robots try to imitate you. This anthology gets beneath the skin and into the depths of what it means to be human in an age of machines and genes.” Sounds guid, aye?

Haunted Voices (Anthology)

Haunted Voices was the first output from Scottish indie publisher Haunt. It’s packed with stories from some of Scotland’s best storytellers and you can expect ‘monstrous tongue-eaters, shadowy demons, haunted video tapes, wicked priests, strange shapes in the darkness, a retelling of Poe’s The Raven… and more.’

Tales for Twilight (Anthology)

Tales for Twilight is a brand new anthology from Birlinn with stories ranging across the centuries from James Hogg to James Robertson. They say: ‘Scottish authors have proved to be exceptionally good at writing ghost stories. Perhaps it’s because of the tradition of oral storytelling that has stretched over centuries, including poems and ballads with supernatural themes. The golden age was during the Victorian and Edwardian period, but the ghost story has continued to evolve and remains popular to this day.’ [I pre-ordered this one as soon as I found out it existed!]

The Open Door & Other Stories of the Seen and Unseen by Margaret Oliphant

Talking of classics.. This “forgotten” collection of stories by Margaret Oliphant, who was big in the 19th Century but less so since, could be up your street. ‘From suspenseful hauntings to strange tales of afterlife and the emotional echoes of ghosts beyond simple frights, Oliphant’s stories possess a unique style and nuanced voice to deliver stories thoroughly unnerving and unforgettable.’

Things we Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan

This is one of my favourite short story collections. This is a collection of dark stories of fear, violence, domestic claustrophobia and desire. As the blurb says, you should expect stories about…’a woman is unnerved by her isolation alone in a house in Iceland; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.’

Look Where You’re Going Not Where You’ve Been by Steven J. Dines

I’ve not gotten to reading this collection yet but it sounds incredible and I’m excited for it. The blurb says, ‘The past is never far behind. If we do not leave it, if we insist on carrying it with us to the end…that end is a monster. This stunning debut collection of dark, literary fiction drowns the reader in its themes of grief, regret, love, and hope. A family is torn apart by tragedy and misadventure, their future creaking under the weight of judgment. Old men play at being ghosts while a young boy sees real ones wherever he turns. A wandering immortal desperately seeks an end to his pain. Intimate, unflinching, and poignant, these eleven tales of the broken and the unmade include the two previously unpublished novellas, dragonland and This House is Not Haunted.’

Poetry and Micro-Fiction

Sometimes you need your scares short and maybe not-so-sweet – so here’s a couple of suggestions.

Where Decay Sleeps by Anna Cheung

As I write this list I’m not 100% sure if Where Decay Sleeps is out yet – though Haunt’s site says it will be shipping in October so it’s close. They say of it “[the collection] lays 36 poems on the undertaker’s table, revealing to us the seven stages of decay: pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, livor mortis, putrefaction, decomposition and skeletonisation. Readers are summoned to walk the Gothic ruins of monsters, where death and decay lie sleeping. Tread carefully through Satan’s garden. Feast your eyes on the Le Chateau Viande menu (before your eyes are feasted upon). Read the bios of monsters on Tinder. Discover the unpleasant side effects of a werewolf ’s medication. Blending traditional Gothic imagery, modern technology and Chinese folklore, Where Decay Sleeps is the debut poetry collection from the haunted mind of Anna Cheung.’ Sounds dead good eh?

Love, Pan-Fried by Gray Crosbie

LOVE, PAN-FRIED is a bundle of tiny stories about shape-shifting, love, loss, our strange relationship with our body and everything in between. While not all creepy, it definitely has its moments and it’s perfect if you’re after something small and strange.

Dark and Twisted Tales

Scotland has a wealth of stories that fall into the vague category of “dark and a bit weird” – here’s some of our favourites but you wouldn’t have to dig far to come up with so many more.

Under the Skin by Michael Faber

Is it sci-fi? Is it horror? Is it dark and twisted? Aye, all of those probably, and well deserving of its place here. Blurb? ‘Isserley spends most of her time driving. But why is she so interested in picking up hitchhikers? And why are they always male, well-built and alone? An utterly unpredictable and macabre mystery, Under the Skin is a genre-defying masterpiece.’

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The debut that introduced Iain Banks to the world with a bang…literally. There’s a lot to be disturbed by with The Wasp Factory so proceed with caution. ‘Two years after I killed Blyth, I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons and more fundamental reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did my young cousin Esmeralda, more or less on a whim. That’s my score to date. Three. I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.’ 

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

An absolute classic – with a sequel coming next year! The Cutting Room is definitely not to be missed. ‘When Rilke, a dissolute auctioneer, comes upon a hidden collection of violent and highly disturbing photographs, he feels compelled to discover more about the deceased owner who coveted them. Soon he finds himself sucked into an underworld of crime, depravity and secret desire, fighting for his life.’

Read our review here.

Bitterhall by Helen McClory

The second spot on this list for Helen McClory but she’s brilliant so tough…’Bitterhall is a story of obsession told between three unreliable narrators. In a darkening season in a northern city, Daniel, Órla and Tom narrate the intersections of their lives, from future-world 3D printing technology to the history of the book, to a stolen nineteenth-century diary written by a dashing gentleman who may not be entirely dead. An interwar-themed Halloween party leads to a series of entanglements, variously a longed-for sexual encounter clouded by madness, a betrayal, and a reality-destroying moment of possession.’

Read our review here.

Glister and The Dumb House by John Burnside

John Burnside has written a fair few books that come nicely under this category. Two we want to highlight here are Glister and The Dumb House. Glister is the story of Innertown, and the young people who live there. ‘Every year or so, a boy from their school disappears, vanishing into the wasteland of the old chemical plant. Nobody knows where these boys go, or whether they are alive or dead, and without evidence the authorities claim they are simply runaways. The town policeman, Morrison knows otherwise. He was involved in the cover-up of one boy’s murder, and he believes all the boys have been killed. Though he is seriously compromised, he would still like to find out the killer’s identity. The local children also want to know and, in their fear and frustration, they turn on Rivers, a sad fantasist and suspected paedophile living alone at the edge of the wasteland. Trapped and frightened, one of the boys, Leonard, tries to escape, taking refuge in the poisoned ruins of the old plant; there he finds another boy, who might be the missing Liam and might be a figment of his imagination. With his help, Leonard comes to understand the policeman’s involvement, and exacts the necessary revenge – before following Liam into the Glister: possibly a disused chemical weapons facility, possibly a passage to the outer world.

and The Dumb House?

As a child, Luke’s mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals – tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke’s obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke’s own children.

Burnt Island and The Existential Detective by Alice Thompson

Here’s another two-for-one recommendation deal (don’t say we’re not good to you) as Alice Thompson is one of our favourite unsettling story writers. Here’s two set in Scotland for your reading pleasure. In Burnt Island, ‘struggling writer Max Long arrives on the island to work on his next novel. There he encounters bestselling author James Fairfax, whom Max suspects of not being the real author of the book that has made his fortune. Furthermore, Fairfax’s wife has gone missing. In a desperate bid for success, Max decides to compromise his talent by writing a horror bestseller. Recently divorced and increasingly mentally unstable, he witnesses disturbing visions that take the form of the horror he is attempting to write. Is Max losing his mind – or his soul?’

Read our review here.

And in The Existential Detective, ‘William Blake is a private detective. When he is asked by an eccentric scientist to investigate the where-abouts of his amnesiac missing wife, Louise, Will finds himself entangled in layers of deceptions and disappearances that lead him inexorably back to an unsolved mystery in his own past: the loss of his young daughter Emily. The case takes Will to brothels, nightclubs and amusement arcades in the Scottish seaside resort of Portobello. Identities become con-fused as his sexual obsession with a nightclub singer becomes entwined with sightings of Louise, his own torturous memories, and new visions of the lost Emily.’

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

I wasn’t sure whether to include this one as it also falls under crime, which by its nature is dark and not really what we’re aiming for on this list. But it’s included anyway because it falls kind of outside the usual crime story and into fictionalised account of a true story. ‘William Watt wants answers about his family’s murder. Peter Manuel has them. But Peter Manuel is a liar. William Watt is an ordinary businessman, a fool, a social climber. Peter Manuel is a famous liar, a rapist, a criminal. He claims he can get hold of the gun used to murder Watt’s family. One December night in 1957, Watt meets Manuel in a Glasgow bar to find out what he knows.’

Whirligig by Andrew James Greig

Whirligig is another novel that comes under the crime umbrella but I think it’s just strange enough to also feel at home on this list. ‘Just outside a sleepy Highland town, a gamekeeper is found hanging lifeless from a tree. The local police investigate an apparent suicide, only to find he’s been snared as efficiently as the rabbit suspended beside him. As the body count rises, the desperate hunt is on to find the murderer before any more people die. But the town doesn’t give up its secrets easily, and who makes the intricate clockwork mechanisms carved from bone and wood found at each crime? Whirligig is a tartan noir like no other; an expose of the corruption pervading a small Highland community and the damage this inflicts on society’s most vulnerable. What happens when those placed in positions of trust look the other way; when those charged with our protection are inadequate to the challenge; when the only justice is that served by those who have been sinned against?’

Read our review here.

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

I’ve had Little Eve on my wishlist for awhile now so if you’ve read it I’d love to know your thoughts! Blurb? ‘New Year’s Day, 1921. Seven mutilated bodies are discovered in an ancient stone circle on a remote Scottish island. The victims are ‘the Children’ – members of a nature cult ruled by the charismatic, sadistic patriarch, the adder. The sole survivor of the massacre, Dinah, claims that Eve is the murderer, apparently drowned while attempting her escape. Yet as Eve’s story of the years leading up the massacre intertwines with Dinah’s account of the aftermath, a darker, stranger truth begins to emerge. The Isle is all Eve knows. Hidden from the world, the Children worship the Great Snake who dwells in the ocean, dance in the stones at dawn and offer their blood in sacrifice. The adder’s word is law. When Eve is forced into the world beyond the Isle her faith and love are tested by unexpected friendships that make her question everything. As she begins to see through the adder’s macabre fictions, the world Eve knows collapses. Does she lose her humanity with her belief? Does it drive her to kill?’

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Last but not least here’s another 2021 published dark and twisty treat. ‘Cat’s twin sister El has disappeared. But there’s one thing Cat is sure of: her sister isn’t dead. She would have felt it. She would have known. To find her sister, Cat must return to their dark, crumbling childhood home and confront the horrors that wait there. Because it’s all coming back to Cat now: all the things she has buried, all the secrets she’s been running from. The closer Cat comes to the truth, the closer to danger she is. Some things are better left in the past…’

We hope you enjoyed this run down of some creepy recommendations to make your Halloween a little more on the spooky Scottish side. There’s loads more suggestions to come in part two so keep an eye out for it.

Book to movie adaptations: eight to add to your TBR and watch list

Our Ladies, the adaption of Alan Warner’s much loved The Sopranos is out today after long delays to the release date. So, to celebrate, here’s a list of some Scottish book to movie adaptations just in time for the weekend if you’re anything like me and have gone back into hiding.

The Sopranos/Our Ladies

The Book: Alan Warner’s 1998 novel is about a choir from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School for Girls who are headed to the national finals in the city. The Sopranos – Orla, Kylah, (Ra)Chell, Amanda Konky and Fionnula are up for pub-crawling, shoplifting and body-piercing being the top priorities but first they have to lose the competition…

The Movie: Initially slated for release after its premier at the 2019 BFI Film Festival, Our Ladies was delayed due to the pandemic by over a year. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones it stars Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Rona Morison, Sally Messham, Marli Siu and Eve Austin.

Trainspotting

The Book: Set in late 1980s Leith, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting is a collection of linked short stories of a group of mates, most of whom are heroin addicts. This book is the quintessential Scottish cult classic and a definite must read. It’s been referred to as an inspiration to so many Scottish writers including ScotLit faves Graeme Armstrong and Aidan Martin.

The Movie: Just as much of a cult classic as the book the adaptation barely needs any introduction, but here’s a brief one. Directed by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting was released in February 1996. It stars Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner (FACT: who actually played Renton in the previous stage adaptation), Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald.

Porno/T2

The Book: Sick Boy is back in Edinburgh after a long spell in London. Having failed spectacularly as a hustler, pimp, husband, father and businessman, Sick Boy taps into an opportunity which to him represents one last throw of the dice. However, to realise his dream of directing and producing a pornographic movie, Sick Boy must team up with old pal and fellow exile Mark Renton. But they find out that they have unresolved issues to address concerning the increasingly unhinged Frank Begbie, the troubled, drug-addled Spud, but, most of all, with each other.

The Movie: Danny Boyle returned to direct the 2017 sequel to Trainspotting. The original cast all returned to star in it once again too. Set a decade after the original they wanted to wait until the cast had aged enough to portray this accurately.

Filth

The Book: Yep, it’s another Irvine Welsh…With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially – kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves. But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition – in the form of truth and ethical conscience – from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus.

The Movie: Starring James McAvoy the 2013 film adaptation of Filth was directed by Jon S. Baird. Allegedly, McAvoy used to drink up to half a bottle of whiskey every night before filming in order to look as rough as possible.

The Last King of Scotland

The Book: The Last King of Scotland is a 1998 published novel by Giles Foden. It focuses on the rise of former Ugandan President Idi Amin and his reign as dictator from 1971 to 1979. The novel, which is part fiction/part truth, is written as the memoir of a fictional Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, employed by Amin.

The Movie: Starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy the 2006 film was directed by Kevin Macdonald. Would you like a fact? According to imdb, the black limousine used in the film was actually one of Idi Amin’s.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Book: Romantic, heroic, comic and tragic, unconventional schoolmistress Jean Brodie has become an iconic figure in post-war fiction. Her glamour, unconventional ideas and manipulative charm hold dangerous sway over her girls at the Marcia Blaine Academy – ‘the crème de la crème’ – who become the Brodie ‘set’, introduced to a privileged world of adult games that they will never forget. 

The Movie: Starring the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith this 1969 film was directed by Ronald Neame. DMS went on to win a best actress Academy Award for this role.

Hallam Foe

The Book: Hallam has an unusual teenage hobby – voyeurism. He spies on everyone: on the gardener’s sex life, on his father’s ridiculous plans for a underground village, on his wicked stepmother, whom he holds responsible for his mother’s suicide – until he is set up, and set adrift. He moves to Edinburgh, where voyeurism is more dangerous, particularly when Hallam has revenge on his mind…

The Movie: Starring Jamie Bell (who is also in Filth) Hallam Foe was directed by David MacKenzie and released in 2007. Although most of the movie was filmed in Edinburgh they avoided showing Edinburgh Castle, which would have been visible at the majority of locations if they weren’t being weird about it.

Young Adam

The Book: Set on a canal linking Glasgow and Edinburgh, Young Adam is the masterly literary debut by one of the most important post-war novelists. Trocchi’s narrator is an outsider, a drifter working for the skipper of a barge. Together they discover a young woman’s corpse floating in the canal, and tensions increase further in cramped confines with the narrator’s highly charged seduction of the skipper’s wife. Conventional morality and the objective meaning of events are stripped away in a work that proves compulsively readable.

The Movie: Another David MacKenzie directed film, Young Adam was released in 2003. This “erotic drama” stars Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. McGregor’s nude scenes were going to be cut from the US version of the film but he objected and so they were kept in.

Let’s call this a part one, because there are definitely more book to movie adaptations we want to share with you in the future. On top of that there’s a whole bunch of Scottish books that have ended up on TV, or inspiring TV, or are optioned for TV or film. So aye, this is very much the tip of the iceberg!

Novels written in Scots: ten to add to your TBR

There’s been a resurgence of books written in Scots in the past few years or so. We’ve already featured recent reads like The Young Team and Duck Feet a fair bit on our blog and socials in the past few months but if you’re desperate for some more then here’s a longer list of novels to add to your TBRs.

The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

Based on Graeme’s own experiences growing up as part of the gang culture in Airdrie you can’t have missed The Young Team because it’s been absolutely everywhere since it was published last year. This is gritty, real, hard-hitting and can’t be missed.

Duck Feet by Ely Percy

Duck Feet is the ultimate nostalgia read for anyone who grew up in Scotland in the late 1990s/early 2000s. This is the kind of book that’ll have you laughing one minute and greetin’ the next. It doesn’t hold back and gives the kind of realistic warts-and-all depiction of growing up Scottish that most people will appreciate.

A Working Class State of Mind by Colin Burnett

Colin Burnett’s debut, A Working Class State of Mind, is a linked short story collection written in east coast dialect. It’s a bold book with memorable characters and doesn’t hold back on criticisms of the UK government and how society looks down on the working class.

Before Now: memoir of a toerag by Moira McPartlin

Before Now is another novel that would appeal to anyone that loved the nostalgia aspect of Duck Feet. Written in Fife dialect it’s the story of one working class lad figuring out his life and making some realisations about his family and community along the way.

Buddha Da by Anne Donovan

I’ve not actually read this yet but in his review oor Aiden said, “Buddha Da embraces you from the first sentence, told through three distinct narratives… We navigate through some heavy topics which are told with poignancy but uplifted with quirky dialogue. The characters are so endearing which engrosses the reader in their story, I felt like I was part of their family.”

The Tartan Special One by Barry Phillips

The Tartan Special One is a surreal book written in Dundonian dialect. It’s absolutely hilarious and would appeal to anyone who loves the batshit aspect of Scottish football. I don’t think it’s in print anymore but copies are relatively easy to get hold of.

Be Guid Tae Yer Mammy by Emma Grae

Emma Grae has written such an incredible multi-generational story about working class Scottish women. Be Guid tae yer Mammy is a book to give up a whole day for and just settle in to enjoy the drama, funny stuff and touching moments in this very Scottish story.

How Late it was, How Late by James Kelman

A Booker prize winner written in Scots? How Late it Was, How Late isn’t the easiest of reads for multiple reasons but this story of quite possibly the worst hangover in existence is well worth the effort.

But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt

Dystopian fiction but write it in Lallans. Matthew Fitt is a bit of a Scots language publishing hero so But n Ben A-Go-Go is not to be missed…except I have missed it (oops) but it’s on my TBR and I’ll be getting to it asap.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

I mean…obviously. I wasn’t even going to include it in the list because at this point who hasn’t heard of Trainspotting. But leaving it out would be amiss so here it is. A classic, an unmistakable voice and a book that feels just as relevant today as it did in the 90s.

There are also a decent amount of books originally published in English that have been translated into Scots. I think it’s especially brilliant to find children’s books that have been published in Scots including a few of Roald Dahl’s (Chairlie and the Chocolate Works or The Guid Freendly Giant, anyone?) or Alice’s Adventirs in Wunnerlaun. Look out for a whole other post about Scottish children’s books coming very soon.

What is your favourite book in Scots? Are there any we don’t have on the list but that should definitely be there?

Part Two: Scottish LGBTQIA+ Reads – non-fiction & memoir

It’s time for the second part of our Scottish LGBTQIA+ celebration for Pride Month! Did you catch part one for fiction? Well, here’s a whole other list of Scottish (or Scot-related) reads to add to your TBR but non-fiction this time.

Maggie & Me by Damian Barr

It’s 12 October 1984. An IRA bomb blows apart the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Miraculously, Margaret Thatcher survives. In small-town Scotland, eight-year-old Damian Barr watches in horror as his mum rips her wedding ring off and packs their bags. He knows he, too, must survive.

Damian, his sister and his Catholic mum move in with her sinister new boyfriend while his Protestant dad shacks up with the glamorous Mary the Canary. Divided by sectarian suspicion, the community is held together by the sprawling Ravenscraig Steelworks. But darkness threatens as Maggie takes hold: she snatches school milk, smashes the unions and makes greed good. Following Maggie’s advice, Damian works hard and plans his escape. He discovers that stories can save your life and – in spite of violence, strikes, AIDS and Clause 28 – manages to fall in love dancing to Madonna in Glasgow’s only gay club. Maggie & Me is a touching and darkly witty memoir about surviving Thatcher’s Britain; a story of growing up gay in a straight world and coming out the other side in spite of, and maybe because of, the iron lady.

Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

In this groundbreaking book, Thomas Page McBee, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence.

Through his experience of boxing – learning to get hit, and to hit back; wrestling with the camaraderie of the gym; confronting the betrayals and strength of his own body – McBee examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes and the limitations of conventional masculinity. A wide-ranging exploration of gender in our society, Amateur is ultimately a story of hope, as McBee traces a way forward: a new masculinity, inside the ring and out of it.

China in Drag: Travels with a Cross Dresser by Michael Bristow

Approaching the end of his nine year stint as a BBC journalist in Beijing, Michael Bristow decided he wanted to write about the country’s modern history. To assist him he asked for the help of his language teacher, who was born just two years after the communist party came to power in 1949.

The changing fortunes of his life have mirrored the ups and downs of his country, which has moved from communist poverty to capitalist wealth in just a single generation. It came as a surprise though, to learn that the teacher was also a cross-dresser. Michael gradually realised that the teacher’s story is the story of modern China.

Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth

Cartoonist Kate Charlesworth presents a glorious pageant of LGBT history, as she takes us on a PRIDE march from the 1950s to the present day. Peopled by a cast of gay icons such as Dusty Springfield, Billie Jean King, Dirk Bogarde and Alan Turing, and featuring key moments such as Stonewall and Section 28, Sensible Footwear is the first graphic history charting lesbian life from 1950 to the present a stunning, personal, graphic memoir and a milestone itself in LGBT history.

In 1950, when Kate was born, male homosexuality carried a custodial sentence. But female homosexuality had never been an offence in the UK, effectively rendering lesbians even more invisible than they already were often to themselves. Growing up in Yorkshire, the young Kate had to find role models wherever she could, in real life, books, film and TV. Sensible Footwear is a fascinating history of how post-war Britain transformed from a country hostile towards ‘queer’ lives to the LGBQTI+ universe of today, recording the political gains and challenges against a backdrop of Kate s personal experience: realising her own sexuality, coming out to her parents, embracing lesbian and gay culture, losing friends to AIDS.

Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows by Christine Burns

Over the last five years, transgender people have seemed to burst into the public eye: Time declared 2014 a trans tipping point , while American Vogue named 2015 the year of trans visibility . From our television screens to the ballot box, transgender people have suddenly become part of the zeitgeist.

This apparently overnight emergence, though, is just the latest stage in a long and varied history. The renown of Paris Lees and Hari Nef has its roots in the efforts of those who struggled for equality before them, but were met with indifference and often outright hostility from mainstream society. Trans Britain chronicles this journey in the words of those who were there to witness a marginalised community grow into the visible phenomenon we recognise today: activists, film-makers, broadcasters, parents, an actress, a rock musician and a priest, among many others. Here is everything you always wanted to know about the background of the trans community, but never knew how to ask.

Endell Street: The Suffragette Surgeons of World War One by Wendy Moore

When the First World War broke out, the suffragettes suspended their campaigning and joined the war effort. For pioneering suffragette doctors (and life partners) Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson that meant moving to France, where they set up two small military hospitals amidst fierce opposition. 

Yet their medical and organisational skills were so impressive that in 1915 Flora and Louisa were asked by the War Ministry to return to London and establish a new military hospital in a vast and derelict old workhouse in Covent Garden’s Endell Street. That they did, creating a 573-bed hospital staffed from top to bottom by female surgeons, doctors and nurses, and developing entirely new techniques to deal with the horrific mortar and gas injuries suffered by British soldiers. Receiving 28,000 wounded men over the next four years, Flora and Louisa created such a caring atmosphere that soldiers begged to be sent to Endell Street. And then, following the end of the war and the Spanish Flu outbreak, the hospital was closed and Flora, Louisa and their staff were once again sidelined in the medical profession. The story of Endell Street provides both a keyhole view into the horrors and thrills of wartime London and a long-overdue tribute to the brilliance and bravery of an extraordinary group of women.

Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland: Male Homosexuality, Religion and Society

This book examines the experiences of gay and bisexual men who lived in Scotland during an era when all homosexual acts were illegal, tracing the historical relationship between Scottish society, the state and its male homosexual population using a combination of oral history and extensive archival research.

The Bi-ble: Vol 1 & 2: Personal Essays and Narratives about Bisexuality (Monstrous Regiment)

Bisexuals inhabit a liminal space between cultures, often misunderstood or dismissed by the straight and gay communities alike. This selection of intersectional bi voices has come together to share their stories, helping bi voices be heard and identities seen. It’s time to stand up and spread the good word.

F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary Volume 1 (Knight Errant Press)

Gender – it affects us all, but what exactly is it? There isn’t a single, straightforward answer to put your mind at ease. In the form of compelling poetry, prose, essays and graphic storytelling, this anthology will address the issue head on. From fierce feminism to modern masculinity, perspectives on passing to nuanced experiences of identities beyond the binary, the authors will dispel the idea of a single narrative and invite the reader to take in the multitude of lived and imagined experiences. Prepare to have your feathers ruffled and your preconceptions stripped away – F, M or Other? Does it matter?

Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

Part One: Scottish LGBTQIA+ reads – novels and collections to add to your TBR lists

It’s Pride Month so we’re celebrating here at ScotLitDaily! And it’s been a minute since our last Book List so here’s another collection of books to add to your TBR stacks.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret. Unbeknown to all but his wife Millie, Joss was a woman living as a man. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village.

Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet by Jackie Kay is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.

Now regarded as a classic and for good reason. I first read Trumpet when I was at uni and I’m well overdue a re-read.


Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz by Ely Percy

A plucky, on-the-nose, heart-mending comedy about a bunch of queer folks trying to find their way and going about life where not a single queer person dies. 

The novel’s focal point is a gay bar, a world that most folk aren’t exposed to – but this is Vicky Romeo’s ordinary world. Ely captures a perfect snapshot of this locum, of what it was like to be Scottish, working-class, queer and figuring shit out in that period of queer history.

The debut novel of the amazing Ely Percy. If you were a big fan of their recent Duck Feet definitely check this one out next.


Goblin by Ever Dundas

Goblin is an oddball and an outcast. But she’s also a dreamer, a bewitching raconteur, a tomboy adventurer whose spirit can never be crushed. Running feral in World War II London, Goblin witnesses the carnage of the Blitz and sees things that can never be unseen…but can be suppressed. She finds comfort in her beloved animal companions and lives on her wits with friends real and imagined, exploring her own fantastical world of Lizard Kings and Martians and joining the circus.

In 2011, London is burning once again, and an elderly Goblin reluctantly returns to the city. Amidst the chaos of the riots, she must dig up the events of her childhood in search of a harrowing truth. But where lies truth after a lifetime of finding solace in an extraordinary imagination, where the distinction between illusion and reality has possibly been lost forever?


Venus as a Boy by Luke Sutherland

Drinking late one night in an East End club, a writer is approached by Pascal, the friend of a man named Désirée who claims he knows the writer from growing up in Orkney – and that he’s dying and wants him to write his story. The writer ignores him.

But a month later, a package arrives containing, among discs, sunglasses and other trinkets, a photograph of the writer aged eight. So he listens to the discs and emerges amazed and shaken. He then transcribes this heartbreaking story which traces Désirée’s life as a bullied youth in South Ronaldsay to the streets of Soho where he reduces his grateful clients to tears with his astonishing gift of sex…


Ever Fallen in Love by Zoe Strachan

Richard fell for Luke at university. Luke was handsome, dissolute, dangerous; together they did things that Richard has spent the last decade trying to forget. Now his career is on the brink of success, but his younger sister Stephie’s life is in pieces. Her invasion of Richard’s remote west coast sanctuary forces Richard to confront the tragedy and betrayal of his past, and face up to his own role in what happened back then.

In this compelling, visceral tale of how not to fit in, Zoë Strachan takes us on a journey through hedonistic student days to the lives we didn t expect to end up living, and the hopes and fears that never quite leave us.


The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

Mara’s island is one of stories and magic, but every story ends in the same way. She will finish her days on the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the islanders before her.

Mara’s parents – a boxer and a ballerina – chose this enchanted place as a refuge from the turbulence of their previous lives; they wanted to bring up their children somewhere special and safe. But the island and the sea don’t care what people want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world unravels. It takes the arrival of Pearl, mysterious and irresistible, to light a spark in Mara again, and allow her to consider a different story for herself.


Happiness is Wasted on Me by Kirkland Ciconne

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who. It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road.

When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen. He knows the price of being a grass. But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer. Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

Do we mention this book a lot? Aye. Is it warranted? Also aye. For some gorgeous asexual rep look no further than this absolute gem of a book.


Amphibian by Christina Neuwirth

It’s summer in Edinburgh. Rose Ellis arrives at MoneyTownCashGrowth one morning to find that the entire fourth floor has been flooded with water, in a desperate attempt to improve productivity.

As the water steadily rises, her working situation becomes more and more absurd…


Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances?

Ali Smith’s remix of Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can’t be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, here is a tale of change for the modern world.


Wain by Rachel Plummer

Wain is a collection of LGBT themed poetry for teens based on retellings of Scottish myths. The collection contains stories about kelpies, selkies, and the Loch Ness Monster, alongside perhaps lesser-known mythical people and creatures, such as wulvers, Ghillie Dhu, and the Cat Sìth. These poems immerse readers in an enriching, diverse and enchanting vision of contemporary life.

The poems in this collection are fun, surprising, and full of a magical mix of myth and contemporary LGBT themes- it is a perfect read for teens who are learning more about themselves, other people, and the world around them. Wain is fully illustrated, and aimed at teenagers.


Tonguit by Harry Josephine Giles

This expansive collection by one of Scotland’s outstanding performers is a moving exploration of identity, and how it is warped and changed by our languages, nationalities, and the often inhuman machinations of the State.

Tonguit stands as a collage of the early 21st century; of growing intolerance, the rise of ATOS, the bedroom tax, growing protest movements, the homogenisation of politics, and beneath it all humanity, trying to love and laugh and live.


Look out for a follow up post on non-fiction reads next week.

Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

You can find most of these books in our own Bookshop at bookshop.org – if you choose to buy from our shop we will receive a small commission which will be equally split between a donation to the Scottish Book Trust at the end of the year and keeping this blog running.

Growing up Scottish: nine reads to add to your TBR

Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain is a gorgeously written yet brutal and emotive story of one boy growing up in Glasgow as the son of an alcoholic mother. But it’s just one of the many different experiences of growing up Scottish that have been depicted in our homegrown literature. So if Shuggie Bain whetted your appetite for a good ol’ bildungsroman (not a word you can shoehorn into most conversations so yay for an excuse) here’s a list of nine more to add to your TBR.

Boyracers by Alan Bissett

Boyracers is the story of 16 year old Falkirk lad Alvin and his three older mates. Their days involve racing around town in a car called Belinda and debating film and music. Alvin has to overcome all the usual teenage problems – romantic entanglements and deciding what the hell to do with his life. Published in the early 2000s it’s just as relevant today and a well-deserved cult classic.

Good to know: If you loved the book you can find out what happened to Alvin and his pals next in Pack Men.


Duck Feet by Ely Percy

Duck Feet is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. It follows the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school. This book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

Read Aiden’s review of Duck Feet here


The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

2005. Glasgow is named Europe’s Murder Capital, driven by a violent territorial gang and knife culture. In the housing schemes of adjacent Lanarkshire, Scotland’s former industrial heartland, wee boys become postcode warriors.

2004. Azzy Williams joins the Young Team [YTP]. A brutal gang conflict with their deadly rivals, the Young Toi [YTB] begins.

2012. Azzy dreams of another life. He faces his toughest fight of all – the fight for a different future.

Expect Buckfast. Expect bravado. Expect street philosophy. Expect rave culture. Expect anxiety. Expect addiction. Expect a serious facial injury every six hours. Expect murder.

Hope for a way out.

Read our The Young Team reviews here and here.


The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Fifteen-year old Anais Hendricks is smart, funny and fierce, but she is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. Sitting in the back of a police car, she finds herself headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders where the social workers are as suspicious as its residents. But Anais can’t remember the events that have led her there, or why she has blood on her school uniform…

We featured Jenni Fagan’s second novel The Sunlight Pilgrims in our featured Dystopian Reads.


Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman

Rejected by his brother and largely ignored by his parents, Kieron Smith finds comfort – and endless stories – in the home of his much-loved grandparents. But when his family move to a new housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow, a world away from the close community of the tenements, Kieron struggles to find a way to adapt to his new life.

Kieron Smith, boy is a brilliant evocation of an urban childhood. Capturing the joys, frustrations, injustices, excitements, revels, battles, games, uncertainties, questions, lies, discoveries and sheer of wonder of boyhood, it is a story of one boy and every boy. It is James Kelman at his very best.


Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, James and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth: a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has news.

Mayflies is a memorial to youth’s euphorias and to everyday tragedy. A tender goodbye to an old union, it discovers the joy and the costs of love.

Read Aiden’s review of Mayflies here.


Happiness is wasted on me by Kirkland Ciccone

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who.

It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road. When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen.

He knows the price of being a grass.

But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer.

Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

Read our review of Happiness is Wasted on Me here.


Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers

‘Whoever said yer school days are the best days ae yer life was at the absolute wind up. I hink maist adults dinnae mind whit it was really like. Wait til yeese hear whit Sonny and me got detention for…’

Daughter and Sonny are two best friends just trying to get through fourth year at high school. But when their favourite teacher leaves unexpectedly, and no one will say why, the boys decide to start their own investigation. As they dig deeper into the staff at Battlefield High, they discover a dark secret which one person will kill to protect…Will they uncover the truth without being expelled? Can their friendship survive when personal secrets are revealed? And will they manage to skive off double English?

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

A young man lies bleeding in the street.

It could be any street, in any city. But it’s not. It’s Glasgow. And it’s May – the marching season. The Orange Walks have begun.

Graham doesn’t want to be involved. He just wants to play football with his new mate, Joe. But when he witnesses a shocking moment of violence, suddenly he and Joe are involved. With Catholics, and with Protestants. With a young Muslim asylum-seeker, and his girlfriend. With all the old rivalries – and fears . . .

A gripping tale about two boys who must find their own answers – and their own way forward – in a world divided by differences.


Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

You can find most of these books in our own Bookshop at bookshop.org – if you choose to buy from our shop we will receive a small commission which will be equally split between a donation to the Scottish Book Trust at the end of the year and keeping this blog running.

Eight Scottish Dystopian fiction reads to add to your TBR

There are some who avoid dystopian fiction like the…well, like the plague. If you fall into this category then this list probably won’t be for you. Then there are some who find a strange sort of comfort in reading dystopian fiction during tough times – this list is probably more your cup of tea…

Lanark by Alasdair Gray

Set in the disintegrating cities of Unthank and Glasgow, this modern vision of hell tells the interwoven stories of two men: Lanark and Duncan Thaw. As the Life in Four Books unfolds, the strange, buried relationship between Lanark and Thaw slowly starts to emerge. Lanark is a towering work of the imagination and is the culmination of twenty-five years of work by Gray, who also illustrated and designed the novel. On its first publication it was immediately recognised as a major work of literature, and drew comparisons with Dante, Blake, Joyce, Orwell, Kafka, Huxley and Lewis Carroll. Thirty years on, its power, majesty, anger and relevance has only intensified.

Scot Lit says: Don’t be daunted – Lanark might take a little effort to read but it’s 100% worth it. A truly spectacular book and well-deserving of its status as a classic, everyone should read it.


The Plague Trilogy by Louise Welsh

While the trilogy started with A Lovely Way to Burn which was set in London, the second book Death is a Welcome Guest sees the action move north of the border. Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about. Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island. He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger, fighting for his place in a world ruled by men, like his fellow traveller Jeb – practical men who do not let pain or emotions interfere with getting the job done. This is a world with its own justice, and new rules. Where people, guns and food are currency. Where survival is everything.


The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

November 2020 and the world is freezing over. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, and vast swathes of people make for the warmer south, Dylan is heading to Scotland, once the home of his late mother and grandmother. Twelve-year-old Stella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything of value. When Dylan arrives in the middle of the night, their lives change course. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they’ll all be ready.

Scot Lit says: I’m reading this one on audiobook (excellent narration from Steven Cree btw) just now and it’s incredible. So much of it is eerily familiar in the current global situation – the first chapter in particular sounded just like any news report on any day right now. Poignant, prescient and important. This is rapidly becoming a favourite – Sarah.

Read our review of Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan here.


Skeleton Blues by Paul Johnston

Scot Lit Says: There are a whole bunch of Quint Dalrymple dystopian novels – but here’s the synopsis of the one I like the sound of the most…

Ex-cop Quint Dalrymple discovers there is something very rotten in the independent city-state of Edinburgh in this near-future dystopian thriller. Edinburgh, spring 2034. The weather’s balmy, there’s a referendum on whether to join a reconstituted Scotland coming up – and a tourist is found strangled. As usual, maverick detective Quint Dalrymple is called in to do the Council of City Guardians’ dirty work. For the first time in his career, Quint is stumped by the complexity of the case. An explosion at the City Zoo is followed by the discovery of another body – and the prime suspect is nowhere to be found. Can Quint and his sidekick, Guard commander Davie, put a stop to the killings before the city erupts into open violence? Are the leaders of other Scottish states planning to take over Edinburgh, or is the source of unrest much closer to home? Quint must race to pull the threads together before he becomes one of the numerous skeletons on display…


The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

The Night Sessions: A Novel by [Ken MacLeod]

A priest is dead. Picking through the rubble of the demolished Edinburgh tenement, Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson discovers that the explosion wasn’t an accident. When a bishop is assassinated soon afterwards, it becomes clear that a targeted campaign of killings is underway. No one has seen anything like this since the Faith Wars. In this enlightened age there’s no religious persecution, but believers are a marginal and mistrusted minority. And now someone is killing them. But who? And – perhaps more importantly – why? The more his team learns, the more the suspicion grows that they may have stumbled upon a conspiracy way outside their remit. Nobody believes them, but if Ferguson and his people fail, there will be many more killings – and disaster on a literally biblical scale . . .


But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt

The year is 2090. Global flooding has left most of Scotland under water. The descendants of those who survived God’s Flood live in a community of floating island parishes, known collectively as Port. Port’s citizens live in mortal fear of Senga, a supervirus whose victims are kept in a giant hospital warehouse in sealed capsules called Kists. Paolo Broon is a low-ranking cyberjanny. His life-partner, Nadia, lies forgotten and alone in Omega Kist 624 in the Rigo Imbeki Medical Center. When he receives an unexpected message from his radge criminal father to meet him at But n Ben A-Go-Go, Paolo’s life is changed forever. He must traverse VINE, Port and the Drylands and deal with rebel American tourists and crabbit Dundonian microchips to discover the truth about his family’s past in order to free Nadia from the sair grip of the merciless Senga. Set in a distinctly unbonnie future-Scotland, the novel’s dangerous atmosphere and psychologically-malkied characters weave a tale that both chills and intrigues.

Good to know: The book is entirely in Lallans with some Aberdonian and Dundonian dialect


IDP: 2043 by various

Graphic novel, IDP: 2043 imagines a Scotland around 30 years in the future. Six teams of major names in European comics and graphics novels collaborated to create the single narrative story including Barroux, Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, Pat Mills, Hannah Berry, Irvine Welsh, Dan McDaid, Adam Murphy and Will Morris. The book is edited by story editor, crime writer and graphic novelist, Denise Mina. The story follows the catastrophic effects of a small rise in sea levels on the county’s heavily populated low lying areas and how society reimagines itself in the face of a huge population shift in a world of scarce resources.

Fact: This book was created in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Book Festival as a 30th anniversary celebration.


Resistance by Val McDermid and Kathryn Briggs (June 2021)

Zoe Meadows has taken a break from hard-hitting investigative reporting to spend more time with her family, which is how she finds herself doing celebrity Q&As at an outdoor music festival near the Scottish border. She and her friends, who run a food truck, head north, along with 150,000 festival-goers for a weekend of music and camping. Then, some of the food truck’s customers begin to fall ill, and many point to food poisoning. But when the festival ends and the attendees scatter across England, more people begin to get sick and die. What’s worse, it is spreading fast and baffles doctors, resisting all efforts to contain or cure it. With time running out, Zoe is compelled to fight for the truth, even as she loses that which she holds most dear.


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