Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author leads big book festival cast

Louis de Bernières. Click on image to enlarge.
Louis de Bernières. Click on image to enlarge.

The author of the best selling novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was made into a Hollywood film starring Penélope Cruz, is to appear at Shetland’s eighth annual book festival.

Louis de Bernières, whose latest book Notwithstanding: English Village Stories is due to be published in the autumn, heads an exciting cast of writers who will be at Shetland Arts’ Wordplay, to be held at Isleburgh Community Centre on the 5th and 6th of September.

Others include the crime writers Stuart MacBride and Allan Guthrie, the writer, animator, broadcaster and artist Steven Appleby and author and illustrator of the hugely popular Katie Morag stories Mairi Hedderwick.

De Bernières was born in London and educated in Manchester before spending “four disastrous months” in the Army and working as a teacher and cowboy in Columbia.

His early works – the first was the War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – owe a debt of influence to the great master of magic realism Gabriel García Márquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. De Bernières has described himself as a “Márquez parasite”.

While he had been included in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, it was the publication in 1994 of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was set in the Greek island of Kefalonia and explored the big themes of love, death, war and honour, that propelled him to widespread fame.

Having made enough money from that book to fulfil his ambition of giving up teaching, he then took 10 years to produce a follow-up, Birds Without Wings.

A Partisan’s Daughter (2008) was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. As well as writing, De Bernières plays the flute, mandolin, clarinet and guitar and performs regularly with the Antonius Players.

Another festival guest coming to Shetland for the first time, Steven Appleby lives in a garden shed in London besieged by children and sycophantic cats.

His books (more than 20) include Men: The Truth, Normal Sex and Antmen Carry Away My Thoughts As Soon As I Think Them.

Adding to the eclectic feel is Mark McCrum, a writer of 30 years, including time as a travel writer – Happy Sad Land (1994) – and a ghost writer – Jack and Zena (1997). In 2001 he published Somebody, Someday in which he chronicled a tour with pop star Robbie Williams.

Mairi Hedderwick. Click on image to enlarge.
Mairi Hedderwick. Click on image to enlarge.

Another writer who will require little introduction to Shetland readers, especially young Shetland readers is Mairi Hedderwick. She will be making a very welcome return to Shetland, in the company of Katie Morag, for her first appearance at Wordplay.

As well as her books for children, Hedderwick has written for adults. Her book A Highland Journey: Sketching Tour of the Highlands, Retracing the steps of John T Reid follows the footsteps of the Victorian artist who travelled extensively in the Highlands and Islands, including Shetland (which he wrote about in Art and Rambles in Shetland).

There is a strong crime theme, with three of the UK’s best selling and most talented crime writers due to appear. Shetland crime enthusiasts will need no introduction to Stuart MacBride, author of Cold Granite, Broken Skin, Dying Light and Flesh House all set in Aberdeen and featuring DS Logan Macrae. His new book, Blind Eye, is now published in hardback by Harper Collins.

MacBride will appear alongside his compatriot Allan Guthrie, author of five novels, the most recent of which, Slammer, was described in The Scotsman as “the most relentlessly page-turning novel this reviewer has come across in a long, long time …” As well as a leading novelist, Guthrie is an editor and a literary agent with Jenny Brown Associates.

Also no stranger to Shetland is Ann Cleeves, author of the highly successful Raven Black, White Nights and the newly published Red Bones, three quarters of her Shetland quartet of novels featuring Fair Isle born detective Jimmy Perez.

Cleeves will take part in a special event featuring her friend CSI Helen Pepper, a lecturer at Teesdale University, which will involve taking the audience through one of the crime scenes from one of the novels and examining it from the perspective of a professional crime scene investigator. They will also run a series of workshops in Shetland schools in the week before the festival.

Shetland Arts literature development officer Donald Anderson said: “This year’s festival seems to be particularly busy and we are delighted to have such a wide range of literature related activity on offer and once again to welcome so many fine writers and artists to Wordplay.”

Tickets for all festival events are available from the Shetland Box Office – (01595) 745555 from Friday. Discount rates are available for tickets purchased before 28th August.

For details see the festival programme, which can collected from Shetland Arts offices at Toll Clock Centre, Lerwick, and venues around Shetland and downloaded from

For full preview see this week’s Shetland Times.


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