Robert Douglas retired aged fifty-five in 1994. He intended to paint, write short stories and lie about the house watching old films. A one-off article he wrote about six weeks spent with a condemned man in Bristol prison led to him being told ‘You should write’. Three volumes of autobiography followed detailing his life as a miner, dock worker, doss-house resident, soldier, prison screw and survivor. For this debut novel he returns to the lost Glasgow of trams and tenements. He hasn’t painted for years.
Books by Robert Douglas
Night song of the last tram: A Glasgow childhood
‘If my father had been killed in North Africa or Italy during the Second World War, I know that for the rest of my life I would have looked at the few photographs of him and mourned our lost relationship. Unfortunately, he survived and came home.’
Thus begins a wonderfully colourful and deeply poignant memoir of growing up in a ‘single end’ – one room in a Glasgow tenement – during and immediately after the Second World War. Although young Robert Douglas’s life was blighted by the cruel if sporadic presence of his father, it was equally blessed by the love of his mother, Janet. While the story of their life together is in some ways very sad, it is also filled with humorous and happy memories. Night Song of the Last Tram is a superb evocation of childhood and of a Glasgow of trams and tenements that has long since disappeared.
‘Exquisite’ – Sunday Times
‘His prose is direct, pacy, uncluttered … engaging, deftly written and honestly remembered’ – Herald
‘A well-written slice of social history delivered directly by an eyewitness’ – Independent on Sunday
‘Consider for instance ‘The Great Midden-raking Expedition’, the sort of thing millions of Winnie-the-Pooh fans would be familiar with if Christopher Robin had been a Glaswegian’ – Daily Mail
‘One of the most moving autobiographies ever penned by a Scottish writer’ – Daily Record
Somewhere to Lay My Head
We left Robert a long way from home, a sixteen-year-old recruit in the RAF. Now, we follow his escape from the Forces (until National Service a few years later!), his return to Glasgow and life down the pit. Once more, Robert’s fantastic memory for people, places and anecdotes, combined with an ear for individual voices and the brilliant ability to evoke a bygone sense of community, will enchant his readers and sometimes appal them with the brutality of conditions he experienced.
‘Night Song of the Last Tram was one of the most moving autobiographies ever penned by a Scottish writer…Somewhere to Lay my Head takes up where that left off…Once again demonstrating an outstanding gift for evoking the atmosphere and emotions of a time gone by, this wonderfully talented storyteller takes us on a journey that he started as a boy and ended as a man’ – Daily Record
‘If Blake Morrison is the Radio 4 of family memoir, then Robert Douglas is definitely the Radio 2’ – Sunday Herald
At Her Majesty’s Pleasure
In his final instalment in his autobiographical trilogy, Robert Douglas takes us through the sixties and into the eighties with his memories of life as a prison officer, and, at the end of his career, as an electricity chargehand driving around the Yorkshire Dales. He tells us of his prison experiences, with anecdotes about many of the most famous criminals in British history – the Krays, the Richardsons, the Great Train Robbers, Soviet spies and many more. Told in the same endearing and fascinating voice that readers of LAST SONG OF THE NIGHT TRAM and SOMEWHERE TO LAY MY HEAD first fell in love with, this volume continues the story of Robert’s remarkable journey of self-education, introducing us to larger-than-life characters on both sides of the bars, and evoking a strong sense of social change as Britain emerged from the post-War gloom into the bright lights of the Beatles years.
‘You feel as if you are standing alongside him, scanning the prison wings for trouble’ – Herald
‘It’s a life as lived, honestly told, and worth a shelf full of self-serving political and celebrity false fronts’ – Scotsman
‘As emotional, funny and evocative as its predecessors, this will make you laugh, cry and buy copies for everyone youve ever known’ – Daily Record
Whose Turn for the Stairs?
This is an utterly charming story about twelve families and their tightly knit street in 1950s Maryhill. Following the end of the war, the close rebuilds its ties and the strong sense of community and friendly neighbourhood bonds are soon back in place. There is young love for Rhea and Robert; a surprising new start for James; a change of direction for George; and all overseen by the matriarch of the street – Granny Thomson. And of course, all buoyed up by a big helping of Scottish humour and strength of spirit. Yet it is all not perfect in their world: the families have to deal with poverty, religious bigotry, racism, heartbreak, lies, violence and death. In Robert Douglas’s first novel, he recreates a time and place particular to Glasgow but to which everyone will relate.
‘An outstanding novel with a cast of characters so beautifully drawn that turning the last page feels like flitting out of 18 Dalbeattie Street’ – Daily Record
‘Pure dead brilliant, so it is… a rare old read for folk that were round and about in the Forties and Fifties’ – Edinburgh Evening News
‘Douglas’s prose is simple and charming… this novel will appeal to fans of Douglas’s previous trips down memory lane’ – Scottish Review of Books
2009, Hachette Scotland
Staying On Past the Terminus
Glasgow 1961. It is ten years since we last visited the close at 18 Dalbeattie Street in Maryhill. The stalwarts are still there…Ella, Drena, Rhea and ‘Granny’ Thomson (86) Glasgow’s beloved trams still run on the Maryhill Road. But not for long. There will not be a tramcar left in Glasgow by the end of next year. The new tenant, Frank Galloway knows all about this – he’s a driver. The other new arrival is Ruby Baxter who impresses no one with her attitude – as Granny Thomson says “She’s no better than she ought to be, that yin!”
Robert Douglas brings his usual blend of laughter and tears to this latest novel and his many fans will not be disappointed.
‘A lovingly nostalgic look at the mean streets of Glasgow at the dawn of the Swinging Sixties’ – Hexham Courant
2011, Hachette Scotland
Last Dance at the Wrecker’s Ball
Robert completes his fictional trilogy of post war Glasgow with this novel set in the early 1970s. Glasgow is changing beyond all recognition and the residents of 18 Dalbeattie Street have only a short time before their tenement becomes just another memory…
Robert Douglas is represented at Jenny Brown Associates by Stan – firstname.lastname@example.org