books on the radio

John Rebus Has Not Left the Building: The Ian Rankin Interview


Listen to the interview now by clicking this link right here!


It was a crap morning.  Cold rain and fog.  The roads and sidewalks were slick with leaves and puddles.  Cars haunted side streets at half speed, their drivers wiping at the windows from within, bleary eyes squinting out.

The Complaints HB CS1 rev.inddIt was unequivocal inclemency of the highest order. The natural world’s embodiment of the emotional turmoil at the core of your average Mogwai tune.

It could have been an autumn morning in any bitter and inhospitable city in the world.  Could have been Bogata, Edinburgh, Jakarta or Vladivostok.

As luck would have it the drab and impenetrable city in question was Vancouver and I would have to go out into it if I wanted to get this interview with Ian Rankin.

I’d be lying if I said that the idea didn’t briefly cross my mind.

After the requisite caffeine injections and foggy mutterings I made it to the CJSF station HQ and let myself into the empty confines.  Peace and quiet and warmth.  And time to gather my energies before making the call to Toronto where Mr Rankin was participating in IFOA XXX and their special showcasing of Scottish writers and Canadian writers of Scottish descent.

No problem.  Smooth sailing from here.  Should be.Dark Entries

I got the mixing board all warmed, lit up and functional.  The digital patch connecting the old touch tone phone to the outside world checked out but the computer with the mixing program was locked by a password that I did not have.  It was 730 in the morning and the only numbers that I had were for people who happened to be out of town.

It was grim but eventually I hacked into the machine, made the call to Ian’s hotel room and got the interview up on the rails.

I’d forgotten my notes in the other room during my frenzy to figure out how I was going to crack the password into the computer and now I was improvising wildly to Mr Rankin as we began to talk about the similarities between Scotland and Canada and their shared proximity to proverbial cultural elephants to their geographic south.

From there we talked about James Kelman and boy wizards, Margaret Atwood, the Proclaimers, Mogwai and Jackie Leven, shopping for vinyl records, travelling by train across Canada, return visits to the toy shop on Granville Island, John Rebus, Malcom Fox, reality gameshows broadcast in hell and despairing wives.

An excellent time had by all and topped off by a blistering track from the new Mogwai album, Hawk is Howling.

Many thanks to Ian Rankin and the good people at Orion Books/McArthur Canada and Random House/DC/Vertigo for making it happen.


Shapes begin to emerge: The Hal Wake Interview

Hal Wake-1


Read the post below and check the links while you listen to the podcast by clicking here.

In the earliest days of planning for Books on the Radio, when it was but a glimmer on the horizon, I knew that I wanted to interview Hal Wake about the Vancouver International Writers Festival.  I’ve known Hal for a few years and we have many mutual friends and I’ve been a big fan of the work that he and his team have done to bring a fresh international group of writers to Vancouver every year.

This interview could have gone on for an hour and a half and we still wouldn’t have covered everything that the festival has to offer.  I didn’t even get a chance to ask Hal about the Peter Mansbridge event!

That’s ridiculous and would be almost unforgivable had we not alighted on David Sedaris, Margaret Atwood, Audrey Niffenegger, Sal Ferreras and the Tribute to Alice Munro along the way.

So the festival is coming but it’s not all about percussive bandleaders and international heavyweight smackdowns.

The VIWF also features emerging talents like local beatboxing, wharf-dwelling, gravel voiced impresario C.R. Avery.  The always charming Billeh Nickerson brings his McPoems (published by the excellent Arsenal Pulp Press) to town for a few events.  Michael Turner is also making a few appearances in support of his new experimental novel 8X10.

And just when you thought that it was an unrelenting sausage party the VIWF drops the likes of Zoe Whittall, with her new book Holding Still for as Long as Possible, Lisa Foad with her short story collection The Night is a Mouth (note the Sonja Ahlers cover!) and local poet and unabashed Laurie Anderson fan, Elizabeth Bachinsky reps the legendary annual Poetry Bash in support of her new book of poems, God of Missed Connections.

And I’m only really touching the surface.  You can pick up the festival programs at bookstores and libraries throughout the city or you can check it out online.

It’s going to be another great year and I look forward to seeing you there.