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Journal, October 3.

October 3, 2009

Highlight of last month? A trip to the Wigtown Book Festival. It involved four days of almost continuous travel from Spain via Gullane, but it’s always worth it. I’d like to thank Adrian Turpin, the energetic director of the event . . . running a book festival is no job for the faint-hearted . . . his staff and his volunteer crew for the warmth of their welcome. My gratitude also to those who attended my gig, and to Olivier Joly, who did a damn good job of chairing it.

It’s sad but true that for many of us who live in central Scotland, the area south west of the A74M is largely undiscovered and uncharted territory. I’ve been to Dumfries a couple of times, and I seem to recall visiting Stranraer once (although I can’t remember why) but Newton Stewart and Wigtown were firsts for me. It’s a pity, for the area is well worth a visit.

How do we encourage more people, native and visiting tourists, to go there? As the meerkat says on the telly, ‘Simples’. Instead of concentrating virtually all of our limited national transport budget in and around the major cities, the government should explore the economic benefit of improving our network across Scotland.

I haven’t done the sums but I’m prepared to bet that the A713 from Ayr to Castle Douglas could be turned into a road fit for purpose that would open up the whole of the Galloway area, by linking into the central Scotland trunk route through the A77, for much less money than it’s costing to lay a loathed and unwanted scar in the shape of a tram route across our capital city. Or, if roads are deemed non-PC these days, then let’s look seriously at laying down a strategic rail network. We’ve just had tabled, a proposal to build a new high-speed rail line linking London to the major cities. That will only proceed after around ten years of arguments; if and when it does it’ll take thirty years of endless budget escalations to complete, by which time it will possibly no longer be necessary, since business travel will have given way to remote meetings and internet conferencing. Instead of heading down the road to such profligacy, let’s spend the same amount of money in giving our people the chance to get to know our own country, and maybe even repopulate parts of it in time.

(Incidentally the Spanish high speed rail network will be complete in couple of years. They took the investment decision in time, and committed to the project 100 per cent. As a result they’re forty years ahead of Britain. More than half of the business travellers between Madrid and Barcelona use rail rather than the air link, and Zaragoza is said to be benefiting also, from people who decide to meet halfway.)




My next trip is to Toronto later this month, as part of the Scots contingent attending the prestigious International Festival of Authors. This is my schedule:


1.    Reading:     Sunday, October 25, 2009


        Lakeside Terrace,

        235 Queens Quay West.


2.    Round table:    Tuesday, October 27, 2009


        Lakeside Terrace,

        235 Queens Quay West.




For those who missed the news last month, a reminder that http://www.CampbellreadBooks.com, a dedicated service offering signed books by QJ, is now up and running and off to a flying and successful start. Just hit the purchase button or the home page graphic and it’ll take you straight there.




This month’s feedback chums.


Norah Rothwell. Don’t worry about Skinner; he’ll always be my top priority. As for Andy . . . the guy just couldn’t stay away, could he.


Robert Armour. It’s the fact that my maternal grandmother was an Armour also, that’s persuaded me to cut you some slack. I thank you for your kind words and let the rest go by. I’ve learned to be less judgemental too over the years; I’ve learned to assume that everyone who sits down in front of a computer to tell a story is giving of his or her absolute best, and that when their work achieves publication it’s because some pretty shrewd and hard-nosed people reckon that it’s of sufficient merit to be a commercial success. With that in mind every creative writer, of fiction or fact, earns my automatic respect. Read on, kinsman.


Moe Munyon. I’ll have a word with Keith about that security box. If it isn’t built into the system, we’ll dump it. Make the most of your new status, enjoy FLW, and use that email address any time you like. My late father-in-law was in the Pacific too, in captivity for three years. At my brother-in-law’s insistence and with his help, he wrote a book about it.


Virginia Hermes. Nice spot. No, there hasn’t; it fits in with FLW and any references should be taken as sincere tributes.


Paula Watkins. You know where to find them; just press the button. I have a friend who is one of your clan, Kevyn by name, once met never forgotten.


Dianne Price. It isn’t true. Okay? You and all those other Americans can keep on salivating.


Joan McKie. Thanks, and thanks also for supporting the Wigtown Festival. It deserves it.


Tom Wotherspoon. Whoever gave you that advice is in line for a good kicking. If you get in touch with Campbell Read Books, by email or telephone, they may be able to help short term. If not, Unnatural Justice will be back in stock very soon.


Marj Marson. I trust that your weather forecast was misleading, as they can be in this part of the world. We haven’t been rained on at all for the last two weeks.


Keith Tomlin. Trust me. Oz is off the pitch. However his nephew Johnny is reaching an interesting age . . .


Kat Williams. Turkey is best first time around. Blood Red, January 7, Skinner 20, June 2010. And maybe something completely different next autumn, if I decide to commit the funds to publish it.


Ann Matheson. And hello to you. Yes, that’s a distant memory now, supplanted by Wigtown, which will soon be supplanted by Toronto. Maybe see you next year, if we’re all still around and I’m invited.


Gordon McIntosh. When I have too much time on my hands, I write. Why don’t you try the same?


Irene Haston. We’ve spoken before, haven’t we. You had a brother, yes? Re MtJ, if all goes according to plan, soon every QJ title will be available on the Campbellreadbooks website.


And to the rest, see you soon.



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