A Faraway Back of Beyond Place

A musical drama about a young musician’s quest to find the truth about her family. The drama stars much loved iconic Scots actor Bill Paterson and, in her first appearance in a radio drama, the award winning folk musician Karine Polwart.

As BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer Of The Year 2018, Karine Polwart is a multi-award-winning Scottish songwriter and musician, as well as a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken-word performer and published essayist. Her songs combine folk influences and myth with themes as diverse as “Donald Trump’s corporate megalomania”, Charles Darwin’s family life and the complexities of modern parenthood. She sings traditional songs too and writes to commission for theatre, animation and thematic collaborative projects. Karine is six-times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including twice for Best Original Song.

Cast:

Tommy … Bill Paterson
Lucy … Karine Polwart

Listen at: BBC Radio 4 – A Faraway Back of Beyond Place

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Robert Louis Stevenson: a pioneer of the written word 

Robert Louis Stevenson is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers to come out of the flourishing Scottish literary scene. His burst of work during the early 1880s encompassed some of the most timeless prose ever written, with the likes of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped being […]

Continue reading at the Scotsman: Robert Louis Stevenson: a pioneer of the written word – The Scotsman

Listen to “Annika Stranded, Series 4, Beginnings”

By Nick Walker. Annika investigates the death of Tor’s class teacher.

Eight new cases to challenge the detective wit of Annika Strandhed, queen of the Oslo Police boat patrol.

Since we last met her, Annika has been promoted to Chief Inspector. Her first act was – apart from choosing a new speedboat – to co-opt Mikel, her forensic photographer of choice, to accompany her. Her son Tor is about to start school.

Being Chief Inspector means a bigger case-load. What follows will test her physically and emotionally as never before.

Episode 1: Beginnings
On Tor’s first day at school, Annika has to investigate the death of his class teacher.

Nick Walker is the author of two critically-acclaimed novels, Blackbox and Helloland. His plays and short stories have often featured on BBC Radio 4, including the First King of Mars stories (2007 – 2010) and the plays Life Coach (2010) and Stormchasers (2012). The previous series of Annika Stranded were broadcast in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Writer: Nick Walker
Reader: Nicola Walker
Sound Design: Jon Calver
Producer: Jeremy Osborne

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Listen at: BBC Radio 4 – Annika Stranded, Series 4, Beginnings

Fictional account of Laurel’s life lovely 


The titular He of Irish writer John Connolly’s new novel is Stan Laurel, one half of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

Laurel is left behind in a small, unassuming flat in the Oceana Apartments in Santa Monica, Calif.near the end of life.

Oliver (Babe) Hardy is dead; their last film together was years and years before. A few fans call in, and he sends a few letters out. Plagued by poor health, he will die in 1965 at age 74.

The “he” remains just that throughout this long and engaging novel. Connolly, most famous for the Charlie Parker mystery novels, keeps Laurel’s name out of the equation throughout the book. He exists as a pronoun, though the novel is chock full of name-checks of many of the famous men and women of Hollywood’s silent era. (Even Winnipeg is mentioned as an early stop on the vaudeville circuit).

This unique device rings a Joycean tone, and the novel has lovely poetical flourishes. The performer Zera Sermon, we are told, “has more names than a war memorial.” And we are told of Hardy: “Babe takes whatever role is offered: fat cop, fat grocer, fat woman, fat baby, fat lover.”

The withholding of Laurel’s name creates an interesting distancing. More than once, we are reminded these famous figures were chimerical, and did not really exist outside of the magic shadows — motion pictures spun them into being.

This notion is captured in a lovely passage where “he” reflects on the impact the death of a half brother had on his partner Hardy:

“Sometimes he imagines himself peeling away Babe’s integuments, excavating the seams, so that Babe becomes thinner and thinner, smaller and smaller, until at last all that remains is the shining core of the man, the radiance within. But Babe is immune from such exploration, and when disease finally pares away the layers of Babe, all that is left is death.”

There is much of this peeling back and peeking into the interiors of these famous comics. In particular, Charlie Chaplin, who Laurel knew only briefly, is a constant in the book. There’s much ­lamenting over Chaplin’s well-documented reprobate behaviour toward very young women. Whether the real Laurel was as concerned throughout his life with this repulsive side of Chaplin, as he is in the novel, is not a matter of public record.

But these plaints are more scolds for a biographer. Whether or not He is a realistic portrait of the inner thoughts of the real Laurel as a young and aging man is not relevant to enjoyment. The novel, copiously researched, captures Hollywood’s Golden Age in flickering moments and flashing epiphanies that can be returned to, such is their appeal. For fans of the era and the beloved comedy team, this is a moving and thrilling read.

This unique novel sits besides Jerry Stahl’s equally odd novel about silent film star Roscoe Arbuckle, I, Fatty, as a valentine to a corrupt, innocent, tragic, thrilling and irretrievable time in the development of American cinema. It is highly recommended.

Lara Rae is a comedian and silent film buff. Her grandfather claimed to have attended public school with Stan Laurel in Glasgow.

Source: Fictional account of Laurel’s life lovely – Winnipeg Free Press