Ticket update and full programme

PortyBookFest launch

With just a short while to go before the Portobello Book Festival begins, we are delighted that there has been so much interest in the events we have planned. So much interest, in fact, that some events have only a handful of tickets left! Remember, the only way to get tickets is to collect them from the library. So don’t leave it too late to pop in and find out if there any tickets left for events you are interested in.

Click here to see the full programme

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Meet the authors: Richard Moore @richardmoore73 , Alan Bissett and Maddie Breeze @maddie_breeze

Image result for richard moore cycling author             


Sunday 9th October

The last event for this year’s Portobello Book Festival looks into the world of sport. Competitive sports have recently come into international disrepute over accusations of doping, bullying and corruption. Richard Moore, journalist, author (of The Bolt Supremacy among others) and former racing cyclist, Alan Bissett, novelist (Death of a Ladies Man among others), playwright and Rangers fan, and Maddie Breeze, sociologist and author on women’s roller derby (Seriousness and Women’s Roller Derby), discuss the state of sport in the contemporary world.

Chair: John Kelly

The Bolt Supremacy: Inside Jamaica's Sprint Factory by [Moore, Richard]

Beijing 2008, the 100 metres final: Usain Bolt slows down, beats his chest, metres clear of his nearest rival, his face filled with the euphoria of a young man utterly in thrall to his extraordinary physical talent. It is one of the greatest sporting moments. It is just the beginning.

Of the ten fastest 100-metres times in history, eight belong to Jamaicans. How is it that a small Caribbean island has come to almost totally dominate the men’s and women’s sprint events?

The Bolt Supremacy opens the doors to a community where sprinting permeates conversations and interactions; where the high school championships are watched by 35,000 screaming fans; where identity, success and status are forged on the track, and where making it is a pass to a world of adoration and lucrative contracts.

In such a society there can be the incentive for some to cheat. There are those who attribute Jamaican success to something beyond talent and hard work. Award-winning writer Richard Moore doesn’t shy away from difficult questions as he travels the length of this beguiling country speaking to anti-doping agencies, scientists and sceptics as well as to coaches, gurus, superstar athletes and the young guns desperate to become the next big thing. Peeling back the layers, Moore finally reveals the secrets of Usain Bolt and the Jamaican sprint factory.

Death of a Ladies' Man by [Bissett, Alan]

By day, Charlie Bain is the school’s most inspiring teacher. By night he prowls the stylish bars of Glasgow seducing women. Fuelled by art, drugs and fantasies of being an indie star, Charlie journeys further into hedonism, unable to see the destruction his desires are leading everyone towards…

One of Scotland’s dazzling young writing talents tackles the modern phenomenon of sex addiction. Dark, funny and deliciously erotic, DEATH OF A LADIES’ MAN is an intense portrait of male vanity, written with verve and emotional rawness.

Seriousness and Women's Roller Derby: Gender, Organization, and Ambivalence (Leisure Studies in a Global Era) by [Breeze, Maddie]

This book explores seriousness in practice in the unique sports context of contemporary women’s flat track roller derby. The author presents a stimulating argument for a sociology of seriousness as a productive contribution to understandings of gender, organization and the mid-ranges of agency between dichotomies of voluntarism and determinism.

Meet the author – James Robertson


Sunday 9th October

James Robertson is originally from Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire. He is the author of several short story and poetry collections, and has published six novels: The Fanatic, Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack, And the Land Lay Still, The Professor of Truth, and To Be Continued…. He is also a co-founder of the Scots language imprint Itchy Coo  which produces books in Scots for children and young people.

In his latest novel To Be Continued…., Douglas Findhorn Elder is in a sorry state. He has just turned fifty, split up with his partner and jumped (before he was pushed) from his job at an ailing Edinburgh newspaper. On the night of his birthday, he makes an unexpected new friend: a talking toad. When a new work opportunity takes the man from the city to the Highlands, the toad goes with him…….

Chair: Jim Gilchrist

To Be Continued by [Robertson, James]

A madcap Highland adventure from the Booker-longlisted author of And The Land Lay Stilland The Testament of Gideon Mack

Douglas Findhorn Elder is in a sorry state. He’s just turned fifty, split up from his girlfriend and been pushed out of his job in an ailing national newspaper. On the night of his birthday, he makes an unexpected new friend: a talking toad. So begins a wild goose chase that will lead Douglas out of his cosy house in Edinburgh and across the country – all the way to crumbling Glentaragar House in the distant West Highlands. Awaiting him along the journey are a semi-criminal hearse driver, a hundred-year-old political firebrand grandmother, a split-personality alcoholic/teetotaller, an elaborate whisky-smuggling conspiracy, a mysterious woman with a rather enchanting Greek nose, and maybe even a shot at redemption…

In this gloriously surreal romp, James Robertson proves once and for all that the important things in life – friendship, romance, a very fine malt whisky – come when you least expect them.

Meet the author – Kenny MacAskill @KennyMacAskill

 Sunday 9th October


Kenny MacAskill needs little introduction being a well known face around Portobello. As an SNP MSP, he represented this area from 1999-2016 and was Cabinet Secretary for Justice from 2007-2014. At this event he discusses his latest book, The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice, which details his decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, on compassionate grounds. He sets it in the context of the commercial and security interests that have overshadowed events in the decades both before and after.

Chair: Alastair Cameron

The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice by [MacAskill, Kenny]

On 21 December 1988, Pan Am flight 103 departed London Heathrow for New York. Shortly after take-off, a bomb detonated, killing all aboard and devastating the small Scottish town of Lockerbie below. Only one man has ever been convicted of the crime: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, though few believe that he acted alone.

In 2009, a request was made by Libya for al-Megrahi’s release from prison on compassionate grounds after he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The decision to grant or deny that request fell squarely and exclusively on the shoulders of one man: Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s Justice Secretary from 2007 to 2014.

Detailing the build-up to the atrocity and the carnage left in its wake, MacAskill narrates the international investigation that followed and the diplomatic intrigue that saw a Scottish court convened in the Netherlands. He describes the controversial release of al-Megrahi, explains the international dimensions involved and lays bare the commercial and security interests that ran in the background throughout the investigation and trial.

Finally, he answers how and why it happened – and who was really responsible for the worst terrorist attack to have occurred on British soil before or since.

Meet the author – Iain Macwhirter @iainmacwhirter



Sunday 9th October

Acclaimed political writer Iain Macwhirter is one of Scotland’s most prolific and influential journalists. He is the political commentator for the Herald and Sunday Herald and writes regularly for other publications. He also been a prominent broadcaster for over 20 years having presented BBC political programmes in Westminster and Scotland. In Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution he examines the shifting political landscape in Scotland in the light of the events of the past couple of years. Where are we now and what does the future hold?

Tsunami: Scotland's Democratic Revolution by [Macwhirter, Iain]

Following on from the critically acclaimed Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won A Referendum But Lost Scotland, Iain Macwhirter casts his expert eye over the SNP’s victory in the 2015 General Election, which saw Scotland swept by an unprecedented wave of yellow. One of the UK’s most insightful political writers, Macwhirter examines the factors behind this result including the demise of the Labour party in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP vision and leadership, the growing dissatisfaction with Westminster, and the enduring passion for independence. Tsunami ends with Macwhirter looking forward to ultimately consider where Scotland, and the UK, must go next. Praise for Iain Macwhirter: “A truly important book, particularly at this moment.” ~ Andrew Marr. “A terrific book […] full of shrewd insights. I’d recommend it highly.” ~ The Guardian. “His writing and broadcasting on politics in Scotland have been the benchmark by which many of us judge our own, more modest, contributions.” ~ The Observer.

Meet the author – Sandy Allan @cairngormsandy

Sandy Allan


Sunday 9th October

In Some Lost Place by Sandy Allan, who hails from Newtonmore, is an exhilarating and harrowing account of his ascent with Rick Allen of one of the last great challenges of Himalayan mountaineering: Nanga Parbet’s Mazeno Ridge. Both climbers were awarded the 2013 Piolet d’Or, the Oscar of mountaineering, for their unique achievement.

Chair: Larry Foster


In Some Lost Place: The first ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge by [Allan, Sandy]

In the summer of 2012, a team of six climbers set out to attempt the first ascent of one of the great unclimbed lines of the Himalaya – the giant Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. At ten kilometres in length, the Mazeno is the longest route to the summit of an 8,000-metre peak. Ten expeditions had tried and failed to climb this enormous ridge. Eleven days later two of the team, Sandy Allan and Rick Allen, both in their late fifties, reached the summit. They had run out of food and water and began hallucinating wildly from the effects of altitude and exhaustion. Heavy snow conditions meant they would need another three days to descend the far side of the ‘killer mountain’. ‘I began to wonder whether what we were doing was humanly possible. We had climbed the Mazeno and reached the summit, but we both knew we had wasted too much energy. In among the conflicting emotions, the exhaustion and the elation, we knew our bodies could not sustain this amount of time at altitude indefinitely, especially now we had no water. The slow trickle of attrition had turned into a flood; it was simply a matter of time before our bodies stopped functioning. Which one of us would succumb first?’ In Some Lost Place is Sandy Allan’s epic account of an incredible feat of endurance and commitment at the very limits of survival – and the first ascent of one of the last challenges in the Himalaya.


Meet the authors – Mairi Wilson @mairi_w and Shelley Day @pascalebientot

Mairi Wilson 


Sunday 9th October

Mairi is an Edinburgh based writer whose first novel, Ursula’s Secret, was published by published last November by Black & White Publishing after winning the Sunday Mail Fiction Prize, and was in the Kindle top 100 for three months at the beginning of the year.

Shelley has been a litigation lawyer, a psychology lecturer and a research professor. These days she mainly writes fiction.  Her debut, The Confession of Stella Moon, was published on 7 July 2016 by Saraband. The novel won the Andrea Badenoch Award, was long-listed for the Bath Novel Award, and shortlisted for the Charles Pick Fellowship and the Dundee International Book Prize.

Both these debut authors will talk about their different approaches to creating vivid and exhilarating explorations of the impact of secrets which span generations in a family. They discuss what is said and what is left unsaid as mysteries are uncovered. The authors will be in conversation with Anne Loughnane, whose second novel, A Clarewoman’s Journey, has been published recently.

Ursula's Secret by [Wilson, Mairi]

In just a few heartbreaking days, Lexy Shaw’s world has fallen apart. After her mother is killed in a tragic hit-and-run, her mother’s childhood guardian, Ursula, also dies suddenly, leaving everything to Lexy. But as Lexy reads through Ursula’s hidden papers, what she discovers raises doubts about her own identity and if she really is now all alone in the world.

Desperate to find out if she has any surviving family, Lexy travels to Africa hoping she can unravel the mystery she’s now tormented by, only to find that she’s stumbled into a past full of lies and deceit and that her life is in grave danger.

You can read a review on Portobello Book Blog here

The Confession of Stella Moon by [Day, Shelley]

1977: A killer is released from prison and returns ‘home’ – a decaying, deserted boarding house choked with weeds and foreboding. Memories of strange rituals, gruesome secrets and shame hang heavy in the air, exerting a brooding power over young Stella Moon. She is eager to restart her life, but first she must confront the ghosts of her macabre family history and her own shocking crime. Guilt, paranoia and manipulation have woven a tangled web. All is ambiguous. What truth and what lies are behind the chilling confession of Stella Moon?

You can read a review of this book on Portobello Book Blog here

Book quiz at the Dalriada

After a busy day enjoying listening to the many authors taking part in the festival, why not round off Saturday 8th October by showing off your literary knowledge at a book quiz at the Dalriada on the prom? No tickets are required and it costs just £1 per person to enter. The quiz begins at 8pm and will run until approximately 10pm. It’s a good idea to get along early though as the quiz is very popular and once it’s full, it’s full!

Get to know the authors: Lesley Kelly @lkauthor and Alison Baillie @alisonbailliex

Lesley Kelly's profile photo     Alison Baillie


Saturday 8th October

Lesley Kelly, author of  A Fine House in Trinity, has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story award in 2008. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two sons.

Alison, author of Sewing the Shadows Togetherwas born in Yorkshire but has always felt Scottish. Her parents were both Scottish and she taught English at several High Schools in the Edinburgh area, including Portobello High School! She loves reading crime fiction, especially Scottish and Scandinavian, and going to crime writing festivals.

Lesley and Alison talk about the joys and pitfalls of setting crime stories in places they know really well. Come along to find out what inspired them and what the reaction has been to the places their crime novels are set: Portobello, Leith and Trinity!  

Chair: Caroline Dunford

A Fine House in Trinity by [Kelly, Lesley]

Joseph Staines, an unemployed chef, has left Edinburgh with the tallybook of the late debt collector, Isa Stoddart. Her son Lachie thinks Stainsie killed her, but Lachie has apparently committed suicide. To his surprise, Stainsie is the sole beneficiary of Lachie’s will and has inherited a dilapidated mansion. Isa’s debtors and the local priest who paid Stainsie to leave town want him gone. A certain young mum, Marianne (whose uncle, Wheezy, is Stainsie’s drinking buddy) does too, and his old school-friend, Detective Sergeant Jamieson, wants to interrogate him about the deaths. Why are the lawyers lying to him, and who’s the bruiser asking about him down the pub?

Click to read Portobello Book Blog’s review of A Fine House in Trinity


Sewing the Shadows Together by [Baillie, Alison]

Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend? More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. “Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.” When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Click to read Portobello Book Blog’s review of Sewing the Shadows Together