Arts & Culture

2007 - 2022

The A List

Assuming contemporary rather than historical, and in no particular order, here are Scotland’s A List writers:


James Robertson
James Kelman
AL Kennedy
Alan Warner
Janice Galloway
Alasdair Gray
Jenni Fagan
Andrew O’Hagan
Irvine Welsh
Ali Smith


Kathleen Jamie
Roddy Lumsden


Neal Ascherson
Ian Bell
Tom Nairn


David Harrower

Comments (27)

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  1. montfleury says:

    What a strange thing to attempt.

    1. It’s true. It’s a strange and stupid thing to attempt. It was a quick response to a tweet from Henry Bell who edits Gutter magazine asking who are the A List writers. After being flippant I then spent days worrying about it.

      1. Ian McKay says:

        Responding to Tweets like that will inevitably lead to a death-bed scenario that leaves you wondering precisely where this brief life went… as will one’s replying to comments on replies to Tweets like that, I guess. No excuse really.

      2. montfleury says:

        Ach well that’s fine then. Though it’s made me sad to have to accept that Ian (M) Banks is ‘historical’.

  2. Jane Kelton says:

    err, Writers

    1. It was a wee joke. Sorry (not sorry)

  3. Liz Summerfield says:

    Please add Paul Johnston to this list. The guy is clairvoyant.

  4. Ian McKay says:

    Why so few playwrights?

    In random order… what about Liz Lochhead? Rona Munro? Sue Glover? David Greig? Gregory Burke? Tom McGrath? John Byrne? Chris Hannan? …and David Harrower (whose ‘Knives in Hens’ is one of the most ‘exported’ and the most performed Scottish plays of all time)?

    …and really? Only two poets make an A list? Only TWO significant A-List contemporary poets?

  5. Titus says:

    “Writerer’s” You’ll never make the list then.

    1. It’s a joke. See previous comment.

  6. davie laing says:

    What about Ken MacLeod, celebrated , libertarian sci fi writer?

  7. Sean Donnelly says:

    wot, no Jackie Kay!

  8. SleepingDog says:

    high-brow pretention
    covering sexploitation
    deserves discussion

    (albeit not on this page)

  9. Gail Gyi says:

    Here’s our “A” list Gaelic writer Angus Peter Campbell (Aonghas Phàdraig Caimbeul) or don’t the Gaels count !

    1. Fionnghal says:

      Yae! 🙂 He’s one of my favourites and I’ve read every Gaelic book – poetry & prose – he’s written. Tog a’ Ghàidhlig! :-]

  10. Craig P says:

    Ian Bell’s deid so shouldnae be on the list; Liz Lochhead isnae so shouldbe.

    1. I never said you had to be alive?

  11. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    What about Andrew Greig-poet,writer of fiction and non fiction? My favourite author. He can write about climbing and golf-both things I’ve never been interested in and I can enjoy the books. His fiction is great too.

    1. Yes, all good but not in my A List

  12. Sandy Thomson says:

    Alan Bissett – his ‘Adam Spark’ is a work of genius.

    1. All true – a great writer

  13. Mathew says:

    Kenneth White

  14. SleepingDog says:

    The A-List? The cool kids? What, are we back in high school?

    I thought this effort might have been intended to indicate the futility of, or problems with, creating such a categorization; nevertheless I would have expected to see some science fiction writers and representation of graphic novel authors, both (overlapping) groups featuring prominently at local libraries and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Also, if writing for children and young adults is excluded, then I’m not sure what warrants that discrimination. Screenwriters? Are philosophers lumped in with non-fiction? Some of the most popular writers may work within the media of narrative game genres now, without acclaim.

    On second thoughts, I’m reverting to futility.

    This enterprise of assigning respectability to individuals, setting them apart for special treatment, is surely at the heart of many of our social problems today. Celebrity culture! Great man/woman theories of history! The golden goose! But it’s Art! All the work they did for charity!

    Can you get taken off the A-list, or is it like El Presidente for Life?

    Sure, look at the works, elevate the best of them as you see them. But please stop this A-list idolatry; for shame!

  15. Derek says:

    The boy Brookmyre’s a moderately amusing read, too.

  16. The Glasgow Clincher says:

    No Jackie Kay, no Carol Ann Duffy – both on the English GCSE syllabus.

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