"Not a Guide to Edinburgh" by Bruce Durie and Carolyn Becket lives up to its title as it is, most certainly, not a guide to the city. But it is an excellent source of snippets of fascinating information about past and present Edinburgh that helps bring the city to life and allows residents and visitors alike to see beneath the city's obvious attractions. As we said when we reviewed the companion non-guide to Glasgow, if you were looking for a "does what it says on the tin" title, then something like "An Edinburgh Factbook" would have just about covered it. The result is a book which is thought provoking, enlightening, entertaining and, as we've already said, fascinating.
Want to know about the city's buildings; its museums; its festivals; its green spaces; its appearances on film; its mysteries and ghosts; its fictional detectives including the obvious Inspector Rebus and nine others? Look no further, because the answers are here. Here, too, is an excellent historical timeline over a series of pages, and information about famous people associated with Edinburgh, whether they be musicians, architects, artists, or "otherwise famous".
A nice touch is the selection of some topics for slightly more in-depth treatment. The rivalry between the city's football teams, Hearts and Hibs, has a page to itself, as does Edinburgh actor Alistair Sim. Authors Robert Louis Stevenson and J.K. Rowling also gain their own pages, as does Craigmillar Castle.
Author Bruce Durie is Course Director for Genealogical Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and has published a number of books on local history and genealogy as well as being a radio presenter, while Carolyn Becket comes from a background of radio broadcasting. They have brought to their non-guide to Edinburgh a breadth and depth of knowledge about the city which is impressive. Meanwhile the look and feel of the book benefits greatly from the excellent collection of black and white images, some historical, others contemporary, used to illustrate the book.