Friday, 4 November 2011

3 FROM THE TOP: Shona MacLean

Scottish novelist Shona MacLean kicks off the first in a new Pulp Pusher series - 3 FROM THE TOP - where folks we rate reveal their top 3 books on their current reading list.

1: Stieg and Me: Memories of my life with Stieg Larsson
by Eva Gabrielsson

A strange, but intriguing book. Not entirely a memoir, absolutely not a biography, more a loosely connected series of reflections from the woman who was Larsson’s partner for over 30 years until his premature death. Shows Larsson to have been an utterly dedicated campaigning journalist, denigrated and not always taken seriously by the mainstream (‘Stieg Larsson cannot write’ was one editor’s assessment), and yet the target of death threats from the far right whom he campaigned all his life against. Fascinating as a study of how a book, and particularly the Millenium books can be a composite of an author’s life. Harrowing as an exposure of Swedish inheritance law – because they never married and had no children, Gabrielsson got nothing when he died, and for 2 ½ years faced the prospect of losing half of their modest home to his father and brother, who got the lot. Raises some very interesting questions about authorship and moral and intellectual property. All the same, the title is misleading – Larsson remains elusive, and this does not paint a very convincing picture of a life together.

2: The Black House
by Peter Ma

Original and almost physically fresh . This is a murder story, a love story, a tale of revenge, and an all round really good novel. Set on Lewis, with time shifting views on the main protagonist’s life, this is peopled with utterly convincing characters and a great sense of place – nothing patronizing or sentimental. Read it. It’s the first in a trilogy. Can’t wait for book 2.

3: Mortal Causes
by Ian Rankin

I read quite a few of the early Rebus novels, then around about my third child lost the capacity for reading novels at all for a while, and so lost track of Rebus’s personal life which is what interests me most. I’m trying to go back to the early ones and pick up the thread so I can follow him through systematically. I realized I’d read this one before, and also seen the TV version, but I know there are loads to come that I haven’t seen or read. I think we all owe Rankin a big ‘Thank you’ for giving Scottish crime writing credibility. I still occasionally find the publishing world south of the border has trouble getting to grips with the concept of Scotland at all.


Shona MacLean was born 1966 (an unfortunate year). Inverness. Mum and Dad ran hotel in Lochaber, then Easter Ross, finally Black Isle. Middle child of 5, so spent 18 years keeping my head down. Studied History at Aberdeen uni. Have not really had a ‘proper’ job - student job in burger bar, trainee tax inspector (don’t ask), part-time tutor at Aberdeen uni while working for Ph.D. Married to James, a headteacher. 4 children. Still spend a lot of time keeping my head down. Also write historical crime novels.