DVD: THE SECRET AGENT
starring Toby Jones, Cicky McClure, Ian Hart
This new BBC adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel may be set in a Victorian London brimming with espionage and terrorism but – with only a few notable exceptions – was filmed chiefly in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow. Atmospheric and superbly performed, the story continues to have much relevance today, nearly 110 years after its first publication. Jones excels as the most unlikely of protagonists; the Soho shopkeeper in the pay of a Russian embassy no longer keen for him to keep an eye on an anarchist group, but wanting him to commit a real terrorist attack to inspire serious retributions.
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BOOK: MY ITALIAN BULLDOZER
Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon)
When writer Paul Stewart arrives in the idyllic town of Montalcino to finish an already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from his stressful life. Yet with no hired car at the airport, he’s forced to take a lift on… a bulldozer. This is just the start of a series of comic adventures from the mind of arguably Scotland’s busiest author, Alexander McCall Smith. It’s also a deceptively alluring summer read full of warm humour, brilliant characters and a real sense of place; and a wise reminder of the benefits in making the best of what we have.
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CD: DOWN TO THE RIVER
Angela Paterson (Wild Biscuit)
www.angelapatersonmusic.com: £7.90 (iTunes)
This self-penned debut album by Islay-born and raised Angela Paterson offers a well-balanced collection of warmly performed and heart-felt feel-good songs – and “feel-good” is not meant as faint praise. Across this succession of wistful, joyful, and contemplative songs, Paterson’s vocals may repeatedly remind you of The Corrs and The Carpenters, but her perfectly-toned vocals and stripped back lyrics provide some emotional punches none-the-less – not least in songs such as “Home to Islay” and “Closing Doors”. Free from over-production, this is an album that simply glows like a carefree summer’s day.
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DVD: SUNSET SONG
starring Gayness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie
Terence Davies – best known for the autobiographical Distant Voices, Still Lives – had long attempted to bring Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s iconic 1932 novel to the big screen. If such an iconic tale – set in rural Scotland just before the outbreak of the First World War – seems an unusual choice for the English director, the resulting film proved the closeness of the novel’s major themes to the director’s long interest in the hardships of working-class family life, the schoolroom as aspirational escape, and the unforgiving sins of the father – contrasted against a beautifully captured landscape suffused with a warming sunset glow.
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BOOK: THE QUIET DEATH OF THOMAS QUAID
Craig Russell (Quercus)
Craig Russell is back with his fifth novel featuring the Chandler-esque Canadian private investigator Lennox, whose own particular mean streets are those of a slowly decaying 1950s’ Glasgow. This new tale hangs on the supposedly “accidental” death of skilled burglar “Quiet Thomas Quaid”; when Lennox digs deeper into what he believes to be murder, he unwittingly uncovers numerous secrets and some truly heinous crimes. A gripping tale of murder, wartime secrets, and criminal conspiracies which definitely has something to say about individual responsibility in “a lawless world” – as Lennox says at one point – “where everybody suddenly believed in justice.”
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William Jackson (Mill Records)
William Jackson has been at the forefront of Scottish traditional music across five decades, not just as a founding member of – and the creative force behind – top Scottish band Ossian, but as an acclaimed composer bringing together Celtic influences with classical instrumentation in a style that’s uniquely his own, in works as The Wellpark Suite (1985) A Scottish Island (1998) and Duan Albanach (2002). This special four-disk package provides more than four hours of mostly instrumental music inspired by the history and landscapes of Scotland, featuring many of Scotland’s best known traditional musicians in unique combinations with classical musicians.