It’s been a busy few days! Two new events have been confirmed. On February 22nd I will be at Better Read Than Dead bookshop in Sydney, Australia. I’m really excited about this – not only is it my first time doing in event in Australia, it’s my first time in the country. I tried to go once before for a wedding and managed to break my leg the day before flying. No bouldering for me this time! The event is free but ticketed – get them here.
Then on March 28th I’ll be at Citadel Books in Edinburgh, from 1pm. The bookstore is run by Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence, and is a favourite of mine. I did a reading there last year from my book Fractures and it was a great atmosphere.
I hope to see you at one (or more) of these events!
Here’s a thing. The lovely folks at Blue Pencil Agency recently subjected me to an author Q&A which you can read here. In which I try to sound wise but end up over-sharing, as is my want. Full disclosure, I am one of their editors.
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are going to be a bunch of events in the UK in March, so if you’re planning on coming to see me, books will be on sale. However given the global nature of the modern world I know that some of you reading this are not conveniently situated for the UK. If you fall into that camp but are still thinking of buy the book, can I suggest a pre-order?
Pre-order numbers are very important as they show outlets that there is interest in the book and can make a big difference in bestseller lists and all those Amazon charts. It’s all part of the hype machine that accompanies any release so you’d be doing me a massive favour.
There are many ways you can pre-order. The most obvious, especially for those in the UK, is direct from the publisher here. Free delivery in the UK, cuts out the middle man meaning more money plowed back into independent publishing, and it makes the publisher happy, which means they are more likely to publish me again.
Alternatively, go to your local indie bookstore and order it through them. You’ll be supporting a local business and keeping bookstores alive. If you like books, you love bookstores. Again, if they see there’s a demand for it, they might order a few more. By the way, if you do go down this route, you could casually mention to the staff that the author would be more than happy to pay them a visit and do a reading there. #justsaying
If you’re paperless, itinerant or living in a Japanese apartment where space is at a premium, ebooks will be available. Kindle links are here: US, UK, and Japan.
By the way, this doesn’t just go for me: the best way to support any author is to pre-order, to give ratings and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, buy books as presents (it’ll be Christmas before you know it!) and generally spread the word. You have no idea how much we appreciate this kind of support. Each 5-star review leaves a warm, fuzzy glow that stays for days.
This is the front cover of The Only Gaijin in the Village and I’m in love. The illustration was done by Jessica Zoni Upton and the design by Abigail Salvesen. I cannot wait to see it adorning shelves around the world. I’ve also got to thank Alan Spence and Christopher Harding for their humbling quotes.
‘It’s a breath of fresh air to encounter this totally different Japan through Iain Maloney’s acute observations and unfailing humour. A deep knowledge of Japan, past and present, illuminates his account, but the people he meets are always front and centre, making this a warm, fun, engaging read. A joy all round.’ Christopher Harding, author of Japan Story: In Search of a Nation
Greetings from a bitterly cold Japan. I’m hiding inside watching the jōbitaki birds drinking from a recently defrosted water butt and wondering how I can be warm without destroying the environment. Beyond wearing more jumpers than is feasible in a man who wants to move his arms, I’m at a loss.
Anyway, now we’re into the new year I’m gearing up for the launch of The Only Gaijin in the Village in March. With that in mind, I have some events to plug. Glaswegians, you are in for a treat.* On March 9th at 1pm I will be in conversation with Zoe Strachan as part of the University of Glasgow’s Creative Conversations series. This is free (books will be on sale).
On March 12th at 6pm I will be appearing at the Mitchell Library as part of the Aye Write! festival. Tickets are £10 and are available from here. This is my first time in the festival so I’m very excited and also a wee bit terrified. I hope to see you there!
There will be many more events coming in the next few weeks as they are confirmed, so keep hitting refresh.
So we’re into 2020 and I’m gearing up for the launch of The Only Gaijin in the Village in March. Expect lots of events in the UK, Japan and, hopefully, some other places, as well as the usual social media flurry. In the meantime, here are a couple of pieces I did for the Japan Times: A review of Seishi Yokomizo’s The Honjin Murders, translated by Louise Heal Kawai here, and a look ahead to the translations and books about Japan to look out for in 2020 here.
It’s Halloween again and time for a shameless plug of my gothic horror novel, Silma Hill. Usually I’d link to a piece I wrote in 2015 for the Scottish Book Trust about Scotland’s relationship with the supernatural but they seem to have taken it down. Instead, I’ll repost it below. Silma Hill – and all my other novels – is available in ebook format on all the Amazons and there are still some secondhand paperbacks kicking around with third party sellers if that’s your bag. In the meantime, have a great Halloween and I’ll be back with more news soon.
These Demented Lands
can tell a lot about a country by how it chooses to scare itself.
example, American horror is full of external threats, things that
jump out at you, things that break into your house, things you must
defend your family against. Terror the Second Amendment can deal
horror however rests in the internal projected outwards, psychology
made flesh, a creeping, inevitable fear that cannot be fought. The
dark patch creeping across the roof is your guilt and it will get you
in the end. No messing.
what about us? Existential threats and walking neurosis don’t
bother us much. What really gets under our skin, it seems, is a
Galloway once described Scotland
‘a country where the standard childhood training lists “showing off”
as the worst sin of all, a country whose church, family and education
systems used once to ring with the hurled accusation, “Who do you
think you are – someone special?”’
Introduction to Alisdair Gray’s Lanark (Canongate, 2001).
centuries, and particularly since the Enlightenment, we have taken
pride in our cumulative intellect. The list of things we claim to
have invented, inspired or discovered is as lengthy as it is
debatable. We may be a small nation but our impact has been large
thanks, in part, to our brains. But you can take things too far. Our
horror is rooted in our fear of hubris, particularly intellectual
hubris, our hatred of people raising themselves onto pedestals.
is most clearly seen in James Hogg’s Private
Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner,
the alpha and omega of Scary Scotland. All Robert Wringhim, the
titular wrongdoer needs is the assurance that he is of the elect, on
the topmost rung of God’s ladder, to start sinning with a fervour
that would make most rock stars blush. High and haughty, his fall is
all the harder.
why should that be our biggest fear, our worst sin? I suggest it’s
because at our core we are a Northern European community. The
supernatural takes on a very different form when you move from the
Mediterranean to the Arctic. Our collective unconsciousness didn’t
develop amongst olive groves and classical columns, it grew out of
the barren landscapes and bitter winters that gave rise to sagas and
gods who drink, fight and cavort and that echo lives on in our
stories. Once the dead moved with us in the mist and the mountains.
Organised monotheism with its rigid hierarchies and endless order was
transplanted here from warmer climes. The North has always been more
fluid, more chaotic, more impartial. Valhalla – an afterlife with a
free bar and no hangover. How did Scotland not invent that?
fact that our cultural compass points north rather than south can
most easily be demonstrated through a figure who again and again
turns up to topple pedestals and bring everyone crashing back to an
even baseline: The Devil.
images of the Devil have been shaped by two poets. Dante gave us
Satan locked in the final circle of Hell, masticating eternally on
Judas, Brutus and Cassius. Milton gave us the tragic Lucifer, the
fallen angel who refused to serve. His character and appearance
mirror the trajectory of the idea through Christian history – an
abstract adversary given form, a stick with which to threaten
mankind, a warning, a lesson. Impressive, sure, but you never once
imagine bumping into Lucifer on the backroads to Blairgowrie.
of our poets, our writers and artists? What do Robert Burns, James
Hogg and James Robertson make of him when they invite him to stroll
through their pages?
none of the church’s super-villain about their Devil. He’s almost
human, an extrapolated version of ourselves reminiscent of the Norse
deities – flawed, mischievous, lonely. He plays the bagpipes in
‘Tam O’Shanter’, the life and soul of the party, the host, MC
Clootie. He’s Gil-Martin in … Justified Sinner, possessed
of unnatural powers but all too human in his desire to trick, cheat
and manipulate. More recently he has supped with Gideon Mack, walking
around in battered trainers like David Tennant’s Dr Who’s evil
veil between our world and theirs is thin up here, North of the Wall.
There is much traffic between the two. The Deil slips in and out to
play his games and he picks his targets well. Our protagonists never
triumph. There’s no passing through his realm to purgatory and
paradise. Janet is thrawn. Gideon Mack disappears. Robert Wringhim
hangs. Drunk Tam only survives because his horse is the brains of the
stumbles home to his wife a chastened man, all pretensions terrified
out of him. From that day on, we suspect, Tam will be a model
husband, shunning both boozy pals and cutty sarks.
Deil is there to bring us back into line. Be careful, boys and girls,
not to get too pompous lest you attract his attention. The Devil
walks among us in these demented lands.
Hi all. While work continues on the Only Gaijin in the Village book I come bearing good news. I recently had a long poem, “Kobe Waterfront” included in Tokyo Poetry Journal vol. 7. It’s the first poem I’ve written in years, and was inspired by a photographic exhibition about the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Copies can be ordered from the website.
Enough procrastination! Back to the manuscript and high pollen count. Ugh, spring.
And a happy new year to you all (if you go by the Gregorian calendar, there’s obviously still Chinese New Year, Tet in Vietnam and a bunch of others to come). I’m writing this on the morning of January 2nd, remarkably un-hung over (hung-under? Under-hung? No, that’s something else…) after a day with the in-laws. My new year’s resolution, you ask? Well, to update this site more than once every few months, for a start.
2018 was good in some ways, bad in others, so basically the same as every other year. Saying that, I have high-hopes for 2019. With regards my writing, if 2018 was the year of progress then 2019 promises to be the year of completion. I have a to do list that’s longer than a Leonard Cohen song (to quote Malcolm Tucker) but it’s all stuff I’m very excited about. It’s been a while since I woke up in the morning desperate to get to my desk and get working, but I’ve been feeling that these last few weeks. Unfortunately it’s all still under wraps.
Literary Landscapes is a book of essays about, well, landscape in literature, and I have an essay in the collection about Yukio Mishima, The Sound of the Sea, and Japan. Here’s a lovely piece by Simon Callow about the book in The Guardian which doesn’t mention me at all which, considering my history of reviews in that paper, is probably a blessing.
Since it’s that time of year, here are some lists (if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am). All the best for 2019, and I promise to speak to you soon.
My Best Books of 2018 (ones I read in 2018, not ones published in 2018, in no particular order):
John MacLean: Hero of Red Clydeside by Henry Bell (Pluto Press)
A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh (John Murray)
Belka, Why Don’t You Bark by Hideo Furukawa (Trans. Michael Emmerich)(Haikasoru)
Matter by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead)
Autumn by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Canongate)
The Guest by Hwang Sok-yong (Trans. Kyung-Ja Chun and Maya West)(Seven Stories)
Toddler-Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kono (Trans. Lucy North)(New Directions)
Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama (Trans. Louise Heal Kawai)(Riverun)
My Best Albums of 2018 (again, not necessarily released in 2018, just what I listened to the most):
Interiors by Brad
God’s Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
Be The Cowboy by Mitski
REM at the BBC
In An Airplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
Anywhere at All by Small Planet Radio
Zuma by Neil Young
Awake Unto by Rick Redbeard
Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
Snares Like a Haircut by No Age