Positive Scots

Scots, for me, have become the whipping boys of the literature and film-making worlds in their seeming determination to present us with unintelligent, violent, and predictably inaccurate stereotypes of the people of my nation.

The British, generally, suffer in this regard but whilst the English stereotype in Hollywood is the evergreen, upper-class accented, moustache-twirling villain and/or cheeky chappy cockney, rarely is an English character presented as we would find the ordinary hard-working men and women of the midlands and Northern England for example, or the Welsh.
Only the Irish seem to have lucked into a more light hearted, twinkly-eyed, everyone’s best drinking buddy type of stereotype. Still hugely misrepresentative of their people though (mostly).

Whilst most Brits are represented in a ridiculous way, I do feel that Scots suffer most of all from the public perception which the media seems determined to portray us as. Almost invariably whenever Scots appear in books, TV or films they are presented as violent, usually drunk, often drug addicts, and incoherently stupid. It appears that the media’s view of Scots is of a nation perpetually in the pub/football stadium/ high/drunk/aggressive/loud, unintelligible and most of all, thick.

Very few forms of entertainment present us with a positive Scots’ role model, and the worst offenders are produced here in Scotland.

While we do have Inspector Rebus played brilliantly by Ken Stott, Amy Pond, great character, James Bond, an intelligent and proactive super-spy, Jack Parlabane, funny, human and clever (Brookmyre), we’re also victim to the “We’re just one of you” brigade of Scottish TV and actors like Elaine C Smith, with her Morningside accent for the interviews, and her Clyde side “Mary-Doll” for the plebs.
Even the brilliant Peter Mullen’s NEDS, focuses on this thug minority, albeit in an insightful and skilled manner.

I find it difficult to believe also that Hollywood can’t cast a Scottish actor in main roles when tackling very Scottish projects. Instead we get an Australian William Wallace, an Irish Rob Roy, never once a Scottish “Scotty” in Star Trek, a French Christophe Lambert Playing a Scottish Immortal in Highlander beside a Scottish Sean Connery playing a Spaniard.
Are Scots really so untalented that we can’t be used to represent our own nation. Pixar’s “Brave” appears to have taken a huge step in the right direction in this regard with it’s genuinely all-Scottish, very talented cast.

Its very difficult to pinpoint a good, honest portrayal of a Scotsman these days who isn’t a junky, a wee NED, talks through his/her nose or has anything positive or intelligent, or human to say. A character who reflects the ordinary people of his/her country would be a start.
The people of Scotland that I know are warm, good people. They’re clever (even the uneducated ones folks), they’re vital, funny as hell, resilient, hardy, and rough sometimes yes, but among the most decent people worldwide.

Let’s see some of that on the screen or in books. Lets see some truly gutsy, interesting Scottish characters in our media and ditch the Shortbread tin or smackhead/NED image we’re tarred with. Characters like Jack and Victor and all their entourage in Still Game who revel Scotland’s heart in their genuine characterisation of its people.
People like our handicapped superstar golfer in John Niven’s wonderful “The Amateurs”. Some real characters with real and current difficulties and victories like the ones that John Mackenzie gave us throughout his career, but most especially in “Just another Saturday”.
People who learn, make mistakes, change, care, and laugh and cry throughout their lives.
Proper story telling. Proper characterisation.

This is exactly what I need to see more of and why I populate my books with such characters. Flawed, funny, wilful, interesting. Just like peoples of all countries contain. People with something to say, with a story to tell, imperfect people with the capacity for goodness and badness. People with heart..

Ken loach can stick his “Angel’s Share” and its cheeky chappy, criminal wee NEDS-come-good up his arse. Social commentary for unemployed and disenfranchised youth? Maybe but representative of the majority of Scotland youth or its people generally.Absoultely not.
Buy Bobby’s Boy on kindle for 85p

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Book Competition – Free Paperback of Bobby’s Boy

To celebrate the release of Bobby’s Boy as a Paperback and thank everyone for their support, I’m giving away 5 signed copies. To enter visit the Facebook page and click like. Everyone who likes the FB page is entered in the draw. I’ll pick the 5 winners on Saturday 16th June and post their free copies to them. A handful of people who have helped me along the way will also recive a free copy each. I’ll contact everyone soon for addresses.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-Mr-Mark-Wilson/dp/1477532781/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338829846&sr=1-1

http://www.facebook.com/BobbysBoy

The Raised by Allen Renfro – Review

The Raised by Allen Renfro is one hell of a book. I really struggled with it at first. I struggled to figure out: Who was narrating? Where and when was it set? What was all the tension? Why did I feel so damn itchy and uncomfortable when I read it?

I picked the book up, read for a bit, put it down in…..frustration I suppose. There were so many questions presented in the first few pages. So many threads. Then Renfro started weaving a truly fantastic tale from the seemingly random elements. Essentially, Allen makes a clean and flawless tapestry of a novel from those scraggy threads.

I suppose that with the last few busy years of being a new father spent squeezing in and reading unchallenging escapist type novels I’d grown used to formulaic, easy to read, spoon fed, unimaginative and derivative stories. Allen Renfro’s novel is none of these things. Allen unfolds a wonderfully textured story with all the skill and confidence of a seasoned novelist in the mould of Anne Rice. It seems effortless to the man.

In The Raised we are introduced to one of the most truly fucked-up families in fiction who lie, manipulate, murder and abuse each other throughout the book. The story is told over years and through the viewpoint of several central characters, each impressing their own reactions to and interpretation of shared events. Depsite viewing this converging story from different characters’ POV and from different points in time, the story is never repetitive. Quite a feat when using this sort of mechanism.

Allen is a word-artist. He paints vivid and beautiful scenes with letters splashed on the page with seeming ease, but also with intent and precision. Whilst he describes scenes, settings, rooms and people with great accuracy and feeling, he never labours the point. Some writers have you skipping long monologues when trying to be descriptive. Renfro has such skill (the bastard) that he simply transports you right there to stand shoulder to shoulder with his protagonists.

The real strength that Allen Renfro possesses is in his understanding of and empathy with people and in his ability to convey these complex emotions to the reader. He deals with many complex relationships between his characters with ease, gradually making us hate/love/fear/pity these very real-feeling people. Allen has immense insight into the inner workings of what makes humans tick and an understanding of peoples’ emotions that only someone who had suffered, loved, or lost in some way would be able to identify and convey in the manner he does. In an age of two-dimensional characters littered throughout the literary, and movie media, Allen gives us properly human characters. Ones with many conflicting sides to them, who aren’t perfect, pouting demigods but truly flawed.

This type of book is really not in my usual genre, but on this occaission I was deeply relieved to take the detour and discover that an obviously lovely man is also such a gifted writer.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Raised-ebook/dp/B005SJSXYI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338569714&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/The-Raised-ebook/dp/B005SJSXYI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338569769&sr=1-1