Alumni Services

March 2018

Two intriguing novels, studies of manuscripts and preaching, and an aviator's memoir make up this month's alumni-penned picks.



Ron Butlin

Degree Arts

Billionaires' Banquet

1985, Edinburgh. Thatcher’s policies are biting deep – fat cats and street-kids, lovers, losers and the rest struggle to survive. Hume sets up a business catering for the rich and their ever-growing appetites. But by the new millennium, these appetites have become too demanding . . .

Powerful, challenging and very funny, 'Billionaires’ Banquet' is an immorality tale for the 21st century.

Billionaires' Banquet


Author Shirley Guthrie
Degree PhD Fine Art

Al-Hariri’s Maqamat

This manuscript adab 2272 from Yemen dated 1709 is a partly-illustrated version of al-Hariri’s esteemed literary masterpiece in the field of belles lettres, the Maqamat or Assemblies. It brings to a conclusion my comprehensive studies elsewhere of Maqamat illustrations dating from the thirteenth through to the sixteenth centuries which draw on the escapades of an erudite, if reprobate, Abu Zayd al-Saruji. The manuscript was commissioned by a merchant, and transcribed and partly illustrated by Ahmad bin Dughaish in 1121H/1709 AD. Following his death, it says in a marginal cartouche that his son Muhammad completed the transcription of the remainder of the text, ‘without illustrations' . Numerous references to the Qur’an, Traditions, historical sources and Arabic literature via literary exegesis deflect criticism of the author in his choice of an anti-hero; Abu Zayd’s wife and son act as his schooled accomplices in his escapades. Human virtues and moral failures are exhibited and understood in all societies, and Abu Zayd’s friend, al-Harith bin Hammam (the narrator), represents the necessary ‘still small voice of conscience’ in his reproaches. This manuscript was evidently produced with care in an atelier by a painter with formal artistic training. Figures are carefully considered with well-drawn physical features, wearing colourful clothing and details such as daggers and ear-rings; they tend to become rather more lively, particularly in the drinking-den in the twelfth tale. The architecture and landscapes indicative of an indoor or outdoor setting of other Maqamat versions are absent, and recourse to the surrounding narrative and captions is necessary. However, the painter did not always follow the dictates of the text and, for example, the scene in the Barqa’id mosque is only determined by the serried ranks of the congregation, who are not praying. The plain paper background allows careful scrutiny of the characters, without distraction. Subtle indications of physical ‘borrowing’ from Saljuq Turkish figures in hierarchical poses and textile design, and figures of women and men from Mughal art suggest that the artist required models and had knowledge of and access to other literary documents. This study now ‘closes the circle’ of known illustrated Maqamat manuscripts for scholars and a wider readership and affords the opportunity to explore further the external influences of this rarely viewed and relatively inaccessible work.

Al-Hariri’s Maqamat: The little-known illustrated manuscript from Sana’a’, Yemen, dated 1709


Author Matthew D. Kim
Degree PhD Divinity

Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons

To preach effectively in today's world, preachers need cultural intelligence. They must build bridges between listeners who come from various denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations, religious backgrounds, and more. Experienced preacher and teacher Matthew Kim provides a step-by-step template for cross-cultural hermeneutics and homiletics, equipping preachers to reach their varied listeners in the church and beyond. Each chapter includes questions for individual thought or group discussion. The book also includes helpful diagrams and images, a sample sermon, and appendixes for exegeting listeners and for exploring cultural differences.

Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons


Author R Bruce Lumsden
Degree Electrical Engineering

Touchdown, Safely!

The book is part historical, part technical and part autobiographical. It describes the origins of RAE Bedford and the other aircraft divisions at Bedford, the Naval Aircraft Department, the Aero(dynamics) Flight division, BLEU and the Radar Flight Trials Unit of the Radar Research Establishment at Malvern. It describes the numerous aircraft, many one offs, attached to these organisations and also the many visiting aircraft which came to use the longest and widest runway in the UK at the time. The RAE was formed in 1918 and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. This book describes some of the contributions that RAE Bedford gave to aviation.

'Touchdown, Safely!' is lavishly illustrated with close to 400 pictures and 280 diagrams and is available from the author by emailing


Author Elizabeth Mundy
Degree English Literature

In Strangers' Houses

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, knows all too well about cleaning up other people's messes. When her friend Timea disappears, she suspects one of her clients is to blame. However, the police don't share her suspicions and it is left to Lena to turn sleuth and find her friend.

Searching through their houses as she scrubs their floors, Lena desperately tries to find out what has happened. Only Cartwright, a police constable new to the job, believes that this will lead to the truth - and together they begin to uncover more of Islington's seedy underbelly than they bargained for.

But Lena soon discovers it's not just her clients who have secrets. And as she begins to unravel Timea's past she starts to wonder if she really knew her friend at all.

In Strangers' Houses

Your book

If you are a member of the alumni community and have recently published a book, we would be delighted to include it in the Alumni Bookshelf. Email the details, along with your degree details, to Brian Campbell:

Email Brian Campbell

Please note

Books are added to the bookshelf in order of submission. All of the further information links listed are the external websites of the book publisher, the author, or the bookseller. The University of Edinburgh is not responsible for the content and functionality of these sites.