The Book Show S3 #16 Kelman, Ministry of SUITs, Kate Summerscale

On this week’s show Sinéad Gleeson speaks to Scottish author James Kelman about his heart warming new novel, Dirt Road.

The novel is set in Alabama and it tells the story of 16 year old Murdo, travelling there with his father Tom to visit relatives. Murdo has lost both his mother and his sister to cancer over a period of a few years. Murdo is a keen accordionist who discovers a type of music called zydeco. This discovery changes his life as he struggles to cope with his grief.

Kelman’s latest book has been very well received. It’s a far cry from the reception he has had for other novels, most notably his Booker Prize winner How Late It Was How Late (1994) which also had a father/son theme. At the time, critics and judges slammed Kelman for his use of everyday speech which he insists is the only way a writer can represent the lives of ordinary people.

Kelman discusses his latest novel with Sinéad and they also talk about the hostility which has dogged Kelman until recently.

Paul Gamble is a Belfast based civil servant who has just published his first novel, The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things or The Ministry of SUITs . It tells the story of a secret Ministry hidden away in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Pauls explains the background to the book – how the discovery of a single shoe on the road inspired him to write it! And he tells us his thoughts on the worlds children wish to inhabit when they read – odd places, mostly.

The Wicked Boy is the latest novel by British writer Kate Summerscale. She discusses it with Sinéad – in all its gory detail!. It’s set in 1895 and tells the true story of 13 year old Robert Coombes who murdered his own mother. As her body lay undiscovered for 10 days, Robert and his younger brother wandered about free of adults – playing cards and going to cricket matches. When the murder was discovered the reaction from the public and the press is as of much interest to Summerscale as the murder itself. She tells Sinéad how the mass published ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ with their sensationalist depictions of gruesome crimes were the video games of their day. They were blamed for warping the boy’s mind. Summerscale follows the story to Broadmoor Prison where Robert was sent but there she found a story she wasn’t expecting. An enlightened prison regime saw the boys getting an education, playing cricket and learning how to tailor.