BBC Radio 4, 19-30 March 2012
Read by David Tennant, Iain M. Banks' new novel is set in contemporary Stonemouth,
an estuary town five miles north of Aberdeen. After a five-year lapse, Stewart Gilmour returns to his hometown to attend the
funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, even though he might be putting himself in danger by doing so. Although on a short visit,
Stewart encounters old friends and enemies - especially the members of the town's biggest crime family. At present there seems
to be a temporary truce between them (thus guaranteeing Stewart's safety), but that fragile peace is perpetually at risk,
as Stewart discovers unsavoury details about his past, and how it continues to affect the present.
At one level Stonemouth is a story about childhood and adolescence, about
growing up in an apparently sleepy town with its five-mile beach and large suspension bridge. However beneath the surface
lurk fierce rivalries - between the two rival gangs that control the town, as well as between the youngsters (including Stewart)
growing up in this world. One false move, or a word uttered in the wrong place, and people are likely to experience violent
retribution. This is precisely what happens to Stewart, as he falls in love with Ellie Murston (Joe's grand-daughter) and
becomes embroiled in gangland and/or family politics (the two are synonymous in the Murstons' mind).
David Tennant's reading vividly caught the conflicting emotions Stewart experiences
on his return: the pleasure of revisiting his family; the nostalgic memories of growing up; and his gradual discovery that
there are still people in Stonemouth who wish that he would leave as soon as possible, so that unpleasant memories of
the past might not re-emerge. The producer of this Book at Bedtime was David Roper.