Changed Times, a review by James Robertson

"In a recent public lecture on 'Scottish Literature and Power', the distinguished writer and journalist Neal Ascherson commented that treatment of the Covenanters in our literature is "fascinating and revealing" and that although every age reinvents them for its own purpose, all recognise the Covenanters as "rebels against a power establishment". Ethyl Smith is the latest writer to explore the legacy of the Covenanters: her novel depicts ordinary people forced by circumstance to weigh their religious faith and their political beliefs against the everyday practicalities of survival. It is an unsustainable balancing act, and Ms Smith does not shrink from showing the brutality and destruction that result. She writes with a fine ear for Scots speech, and with a sensitive awareness to the different ways in which history intrudes upon the lives of men and women, soldiers and civilians, adults and children. Changed Times, the first in a projected trilogy, reminds us that the past is neither as distant nor as complete as we might like to think." - Changed Times

Changed Times, longlisted for Not The Booker 2016 - needs your vote

Changed Times, by Ethyl Smith


Publication date: April 27th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-910946-09-1 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-1-910946-08-4 (Paperback)

ChangedTimes1679 - The Killing Times


Charles II is on the throne, the Episcopacy has been restored, and southern Scotland is in ferment.


The King is demanding superiority over all things spiritual and temporal and rebellious Ministers are being ousted from their parishes for refusing to bend the knee.


When John Steel steps in to help one such Minister in his home village of Lesmahagow he finds himself caught up in events that reverberate not just through the parish, but throughout the whole of southern Scotland.


From the Battle of Drumclog to the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, John's platoon of farmers and villagers find themselves in the heart of the action over that fateful summer where the people fight the King for their religion, their freedom, and their lives.


Set amid the tumult and intrigue of Scotland's Killing Times, John Steele's story powerfully reflects the changes that tookplace across 17th century Scotland, and stunningly brings this period of history to life.


"...a remarkable and compelling debut " Jan Fortune




QueerBashing, by Tim Morrison


Publication date: January 28th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-910946-06-0 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-0-9929768-9-7 (Paperback)


QueerBashing'The first queerbasher McGillivray ever met was in the mirror.'


From the revivalist churches of Orkney in the 1970s, to the gay bars of London and Northern England in the 90s, via the divinity school at Aberdeen, this is the story of McGillivray, a self-centred, promiscuous hypocrite, failed Church of Scotland minister, and his own worst enemy.


Determined to live life on his own terms, McGillivray's grasp on reality slides into psychosis and a sense of his own invulnerability, resulting in a brutal attack ending life as he knows it.


Raw and uncompromising, this is a viciously funny but ultimately moving account of one man's desire to come to terms with himself and live his life as he sees fit.


"...an arresting novel of pain and self-discovery" - Alastair Mabbott (The Herald)



The House With The Lilac Shutters: And other stories, by Gabrielle Barnby

Publication date: October 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9929768-8-0 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-910946-02-2 (ebook)

The House With The Lilac ShuttersIrma Lagrasse has taught piano to three generations of villagers, whilst slowly twisting the knife of vengeance; Nico knows a secret; and M. Lenoir has discovered a suppressed and dangerous passion.


Revolving around the Cafe Rose, opposite The House with the Lilac Shutters, this collection of contemporary short stories links a small town in France with a small town in England, traces the unexpected connections between the people of both places and explores the unpredictable influences that the past can have on the present.


Characters weave in and out of each other's stories, secrets are concealed and new connections are made.


With a keenly observant eye, Barnby illustrates the everyday tragedies, sorrows, hopes and joys of ordinary people in this vividly understated and unsentimental collection.



"The more I read, and the more descriptions I encountered, the more I was put in mind of one of my all time favourite texts - Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood'. There is a lyrical quality to the writing and descriptions make use of all the senses so that they are vivid and engaging..." - Linda Hill




In The Shadow Of The Hill, by Helen Forbes

Toxic

An elderly woman is found battered to death in the common stairwell of an Inverness block of flats.


Detective Sergeant Joe Galbraith starts what seems like one more depressing investigation of the untimely death of a poor unfortunate who was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.


As the investigation spreads across Scotland it reaches into a past that Joe has tried to forget, and takes him back to the Hebridean island of Harris, where he spent his childhood.


Among the mountains and the stunning landscape of religiously conservative Harris, in the shadow of Ceapabhal, long buried events and a tragic story are slowly uncovered, and the investigation takes on an altogether more sinister aspect.


In The Shadow Of The Hill skilfully captures the intricacies and malevolence of the underbelly of Highland and Island life, bringing tragedy and vengeance to the magical beauty of the Outer Hebrides.



A Good Death, by Helen Davis

A Good Death'A good death is better than a bad conscience,' said Sophie.


1983 - Georgie, Theo, Sophie and Helena, four disparate young Cambridge undergraduates, set out to scale Ausangate, one of the highest and most sacred peaks in the Andes.


Seduced into employing the handsome and enigmatic Wamani as a guide, the four women are initiated into the mystically dangerous side of Peru, Wamani and themselves as they travel from Cuzco to the mountain, a journey that will shape their lives forever.


2013 - though the women are still close, the secrets and betrayals of Ausangate chafe at the friendship.


A girls' weekend at a lonely Fenland farmhouse descends into conflict with the insensitive inclusion of an overbearing young academic toyboy brought along by Theo. Sparked by his unexpected presence, pent up petty jealousies, recriminations and bitterness finally explode the truth of Ausangate, setting the women on a new and dangerous path.


Sharply observant and darkly comic, Helen Davis's debut novel is an elegant tale of murder, seduction, vengeance, and the value of a good friendship.


'The prose is crisp, adept, and emotionally evocative' - Lesbrary.com


Mule Train, by Huw Francis


Mule Train

Border Policeman Ishmael Khan has spent his life in the stunning mountains of the Hindu Kush tracking smugglers. But his current mission is to find out what is happening to the foreign backpackers who have been disappearing.


Raseem Hasni dreams of wealth, status and proving to his father that he is a good businessman. Raseem's business is running heroin out of Pakistan using foreign 'mules' he intimidates into working for him.


Matt Peterson is depressed and in danger of losing his job. He's read and re-read his dead fiancée's favourite travel books and decides to resign his job and travel to the mountains of Pakistan, where they had planned to spend their honeymoon trekking.


Annie MacDonald is fed up and stuck in a dead-end job in London where she recently lost out on a promotion to someone with old-school connections. What better way to kick-start her life than resigning her job, taking her grandfather's inheritance, and heading to his beloved Pakistan looking for adventure?


Four lives come together in the remote and spectacular mountains bordering Afghanistan and explode in a deadly cocktail of treachery, betrayal and violence. Written with a deep love of Pakistan and the Pakistani people, Mule Train will sweep you from Karachi in the south to the Shandur Pass in the north, through the dangerous borderland alongside Afghanistan, in an adventure that will keep you gripped throughout.



Stunningly captures the feel of Pakistan, from Karachi to the hills, an absolute must-read for anyone contemplating picking up their backpack and heading off! - Tripfiction.com


Coming Soon

The Bogeyman Chronicles, by Craig Watson


ISBN: 978-1-910946-11-4 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-1-910946-10-7 (Paperback)

Bogeyman

A scribe, a merchant, an earl, of late

A fiery star summons their fate

The mother hag will swear, for sooth

A half-blind man will see the truth

A bogie-man, a Wolf begetter

Slay a son to save a daughter




In 14th Century Scotland the constant fighting of the wars of independence has left the land ravaged and barren.


1327: 6 year old Brodie Affleck, gong scourer at Edzell Castle arrives at Restenneth priory, to become a lay brother and scribe. Arriving with nothing but a scrap of parchment bearing an enigmatic prophecy, Brodie must piece together the mysteries that link him to two of the most infamous men Scotland has ever known.


1335: young Andrew Christie watches in terror as his family and farm are torched by Andrew de Moray's soldiers. Friendless and alone, Christie and his brother must do whatever it takes to eat and stay alive - even committing an unforgivable sin.


1343: Alexander Stewart, third son of King Robert II, is born amidst persistent rumours of bastardy. Spoilt, barbaric and cruel, Stewart becomes infamous as the Wolf of Badenoch, whose savagery will touch the lives of thousands.


Over 80 years the lives of three men are inextricably entwined, and through their hatreds, murders and betrayals the legend of Christie Cleek, the bogeyman, is born.





Talk of the Toun, by Helen MacKinven


Publication date: October 29th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-9109460-0-8 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-0-9929768-7-3 (Paperback)

Talk of the Toun

'She was greetin' again. But there's no need for Lorraine to be feart, since the first day of primary school, Angela has always been there to mop up her tears and snotters.'


An uplifting black comedy of love, family life and friendship, Talk of the Toun is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in the summer of 1985, in working class, central belt Scotland.


Lifelong friends Angela and Lorraine are two very different girls, with a growing divide in their aspirations and ambitions putting their friendship under increasing strain.


Artistically gifted Angela has her sights set on art school, but lassies like Angela, from a small town council scheme, are expected to settle for a nice wee secretarial job at the local factory. Her only ally is her gallus gran, Senga, the pet psychic, who firmly believes that her granddaughter can be whatever she wants.


Though Lorraine's ambitions are focused closer to home Angela has plans for her too, and a caravan holiday to Filey with Angela's family tests the dynamics of their relationship and has lifelong consequences for them both.


Effortlessly capturing the religious and social intricacies of 1980s Scotland, Talk of the Toun is the perfect mix of pathos and humour as the two girls wrestle with the complications of growing up and exploring who they really are.


Fresh, fierce and funny...a sharp and poignant study of growing up in 1980s Scotland. You'll laugh, you'll cry...you'll cringe - Karen Campbell




The Bonnie Road, by Suzanne d'Corsey


Publication date: September 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9929768-6-6 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-910946-01-5 (ebook)

The Birds That Never Flew

My grandmother passed me in transit. She was leaving, I was coming into this world, our spirits meeting at the door to my mother's womb, as she bent over the bed to close the thin crinkled lids of her own mother's eyes.


The women of Morag's family have been the keepers of tradition for generations, their skills and knowledge passed down from woman to woman, kept close and hidden from public view, official condemnation and religious suppression.


In late 1970s St. Andrews, demand for Morag's services are still there, but requested as stealthily as ever, for even in 20th century Scotland witchcraft is a dangerous Art to practise.


When newly widowed Rosalind arrives from California to tend her ailing uncle, she is drawn unsuspecting into a new world she never knew existed, one in which everyone seems to have a secret, but that offers greater opportunities than she dreamt of - if she only has the courage to open her heart to it.


Richly detailed, dark and compelling, d'Corsey magically transposes the old ways of Scotland into the 20th Century and brings to life the ancient traditions and beliefs that still dance just below the surface of the modern world.



The Birds That Never Flew, by Margot McCuaig

Shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize 2012
Longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2014

Publication date: April 29th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9929768-4-2 (Paperback)

The Birds That Never Flew

'Have you got a light hen? I'm totally gaspin.'


Battered and bruised, Elizabeth has taken her daughter and left her abusive husband Patrick. Again. In the bleak and impersonal Glasgow housing office Elizabeth meets the provocatively intriguing drug addict Sadie, who is desperate to get her own life back on track.


The two women forge a fierce and interdependent relationship as they try to rebuild their shattered lives, but despite their bold, and sometimes illegal attempts it seems impossible to escape from the abuse they have always known, and tragedy strikes.


More than a decade later Elizabeth has started to implement her perfect revenge - until a surreal Glaswegian Virgin Mary steps in with imperfect timing and a less than divine attitude to stick a spoke in the wheel of retribution.


Tragic, darkly funny and irreverent, The Birds That Never Flew is a new and vibrant voice in Scottish literature.



Not Scandinavian but dark, beautiful and moving, I wholeheartedly recommend - scanoir.co.uk



Over Here, by Jane Taylor


Over Here

'It's coming up to twenty-four hours since the boy stepped down from the big passenger liner - it must be, he reckons foggily - because morning has come around once more with the awful irrevocability of time destined to lead nowhere in this worrying new situation. His temporary minder on board - last spotted heading for the bar some while before the lumbering process of docking got underway - seems to have vanished for good. Where does that leave him now? All on his own in a new country: that's where it leaves him. He is just nine years old.'


An eloquently written novel tracing the social transformations of a century where possibilities were opened up by two world wars that saw millions of men move around the world to fight, and mass migration to the new worlds of Canada and Australia by tens of thousands of people looking for a better life.


Through the eyes of three generations of women, the tragic story of the nine year old boy on Liverpool docks is brought to life in saddeningly evocative prose.



Toxic, by Jackie McLean

Toxic On the morning of December 4th 1984, municipal workers in Bhopal, India, were clearing some 4,000 dead bodies and thousands of animal carcasses from the streets following the world's worst industrial accident.


The toxic cloud that caused the massive death toll formed when water poured into a tank of improperly stored methyl isocyanate (MIC).


It doesn't look dangerous. And you can't smell it until it's too late.


You can only hope it's not sitting around anywhere near you . . .


In the Scottish university city of Dundee, life and all its complications are proceeding much the same as usual.


The recklessly brilliant DI Donna Davenport, struggling to hide a secret from police colleagues and get over the break-up with her partner, has been suspended from duty for a fiery and inappropriate outburst to the press.


DI Evanton, an old-fashioned, hard-living misogynistic copper has been newly demoted for thumping a suspect, and transferred to Dundee with a final warning ringing in his ears and a reputation that precedes him.


And in the peaceful, rolling Tayside farmland a deadly store of MIC, the toxin that devastated Bhopal, is being illegally stored by a criminal gang smuggling the valuable substance necessary for making cheap pesticides.


An anonymous tip-off starts a desperate search for the MIC that is complicated by the uneasy partnership between Davenport and Evanton and their growing mistrust of each others actions.


Compelling and authentic, Toxic is a tense and fast paced crime thriller.