Great Scot! Fiction Idols Contend

SCOTLAND is voting again. Hard on the heels of their vote not to leave the United Kingdom, the people are now contesting an even harder issue: who is Scotland's greatest fictional character?

The nominations make a mountain to rival Ben Nevis and vary from crime to comics. And the debate is more steamy than a hot haggis. Consider some of the contenders created by Scots authors: Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Long John Silver, Peter Pan, Precious Ramotswe, Tam O'Shanter, The Gruffalo, Rebus, Jean Brodie.

From highland glen to city garret, the debate thrives noisily North of the Border. Their paper phantoms are on the march. Wha's like us? Gye few. (And they're all alive forever!).

The nationwide poll is part of Book Week Scotland, November 24-30. This is sponsored by arts agency Creative Scotland, which initiated the Week two years ago. Although confined to Scottish authors, it is an open contest that pits comic identities like Dennis the Menace and Oor Wullie against literary favourites such as Jekyll and Hyde, Jean Brodie and Dr Finlay.

In varied manner each is a Scottish icon: sweeter than deep-fried Mars bar, intricate as woven tartan, rollicking as an eightsome reel, passionate as a pibroch. Get the idea? The Scots love their written creatures.

Contemporary writers JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith, Iain Banks, Dorothy Dunnett, Muriel Spark, Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, and others, find their genius compared to classic greats Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, AJ Cronin, JM Barrie, John Buchan, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Neil Munro, Kenneth Grahame and the like.

Is this competition logical? No! It's not meant to be, either, it is a celebration of literary wealth aimed at stirring a love of reading.

Explained Philippa Cochrane of the Scottish Book Trust: "We decided to open it up to poetry, children's literature, even Gaelic writing." The topic is new also. Last year readers voted for a book title - the winner was Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.

There is no time limit on when the characters were created. That's what I like. A good story lasts forever. Nowadays too many publishers give a book three to six months in the market place then discount it heavily before remaindering it, all within a single year. Shame! My two personal favourites happen to be contemporary: Sheil B. Wright (mystery), the bumbling female sleuth invented by Ann Morven; and Flashman (historical fiction), an army cad immortalised by George MacDonald Fraser.

Cathy Macleod is an independent book critic whose blog appears weekly at

This article was published on 14 Oct 2014 and has been viewed 691 times
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