Edinburgh Book Fest: highlights, humour and low blows

Piper.jpg “Do you know ‘Rehab’ by Amy Winehouse?”

Organisers seem well chuffed that half of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) events sold out completely, and 80 per cent of tickets were sold across 700 sessions. They claimed more than 200,000 visitors during the festival’s 17 days duration. Official highlights from some 650 authors from 40 countries were supposedly Alan Bennett reading from a new satirical novel in which the Queen discovers literature, and Ian Rankin launching Exit Music, the 20th and final Rebus (the Auld Reekie detective) novel. Maybe Rebus’ next case will be to find the heart that’s currently missing from Heart of Midlothian Football Club; how about that for an idea Ian? Low blow specialist and publicity junkie Germaine Greer described Diana, Princess of Wales as “a devious moron”. John Pilger talked about his new book ‘Freedom Next Time’, which looks at the long shadow imperialism has cast over key areas of the world.
Post punk poet Billy Bragg and my favourite fiction author Richard Ford can be heard on audio downloads.
My personal highlight
Having cut my PR teeth with some of the roughheads and ‘characters’ from Scottish journalism, I was intrigued by ‘Deadline’, an insider’s look at the past 50 years in Scottish newspapers by former editor of The Glasgow Herald, Harry Reid. It looks how the press dealt with key topics religion, education and law as well as politics. It also features plenty of lively anecdotes, including this one from John McGurk, former Scotland on Sunday and Scotsman editor, who recalls one particularly embarrassing moment when he was trying to make conversation with a local minister.
He said: “I went to this minister, and I was trying to get a story, and on his sideboard there’s a picture of Ken Dodd, who was a pretty popular comedian at the time. To try and break the ice, I say: Ken Dodd, is that someone you know? And he looked at me and looked at the picture, looked back at me and said, ‘That’s a photograph of my wife’.”
Aaah, journalists never were noted for their PR skills were they?
deadline.jpgDEADLINE: The Story of the Scottish Press is out now, published by Saint Andrew Press, priced £14.99. ISBN 0715208365.

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