Ron Butlin

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I was brought up in a small Borders village, quit school at sixteen and hitchhiked down to London. A brief period of life on the streets, (see my recent novel So Many Lives and All of Them Are Yours, 2023) came to an end when I secured the positions of valet-footman (see Billionaires’ Banquet, 2017), then barnacle scraper on Thames barges, labourer, barman, computer operator and city messenger. Becoming an associate member of a short-lived pop group started me writing song lyrics. My longest-ever job, a model for art students, allowed me to sit (usually more or less naked) and do nothing for hours, leaving my imagination completely free. My earliest published poems date from this period.

Later, while living off and on in Paris, in the hills above Barcelona and a commune in the Australian outback (see Belonging, 2006), I began writing fiction. My first novel, The Sound of My Voice (winner of the Prix Mille Pages 2004 and Prix Lucioles 2005, both for Best Foreign Novel) was published in 1987.

For the last thirty years, my marriage to the writer and poet Regi Claire has brought stability to my life — and about time too! We live in Edinburgh (the setting for Ghost Moon, nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2016). I love the music and magic of words and am as excited now to begin writing every morning as when I first started. I also teach a course in Music Appreciation at the University of Edinburgh.


An international prize-winning novelist, Ron Butlin is also a former Edinburgh Makar / Poet Laureate (2008-2014). In 2009 he was made the first-ever Honorary Writing Fellow (together with Ian Rankin) at Edinburgh University. Much of his work — novels, short stories and poetry — has been widely broadcast and translated. In addition to his plays for BBC radio and theatre, he has written seven opera libretti, three of them for Scottish Opera.

He also writes for children, including two anarchic picture books with illustrator James Hutcheson – Here Come the Trolls! and Day of the Trolls! –  and for older middle grade readers, Steve and FranDan Take on the World; all published by Birlinn Books.

Ron has given countless readings worldwide — from a one-roomed Shetland primary school to an Arab tent in the desert (most wonderfully accompanied by Bahraini oud player), from the Queens Hall in Edinburgh to the House of Lords in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris to a waterfront festival in Sydney.

Ron’s most recent novel, So Many Lives and All of Them Are Yours (Polygon, 2023) is the long-awaited sequel to his acclaimed 1987 novel, The Sound of My Voice, once again following the adventures and frequent misadventures of its now 70-year-old hero, Morris Magellan. Allan Massie in The Scotsman describes it as a novel ‘rich in comedy while offering some melancholy truths’; while Ian Rankin says of So Many Lives… that ‘the phrase “laughter in the dark” has never felt more fitting’.

Ron’s most recently published work and new editions


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