THIS year’s Wigtown Book Festival is set to tackle the issue of death and how our culture struggles to discuss the topic.

Author Salena Godden will be at the festival to discuss her book Mrs Death Misses Death in which a troubled young author named Wolf meets, and befriends, Death in the guise of an elderly working class black woman and begins to write her memoirs.

Godden’s event on Saturday will introduce her audience to a book with characters that are described as poetic, beautiful, unusual and sometimes very funny, and was written in part because she feels we live in a culture which isn’t very good at facing and discussing death.

She said: “For obvious reasons we try to avoid death, but we also avoid conversations about it.

“I have a very early memory of a little girl in my class whose mum died in a car crash. My classmates kind of avoided her because they didn’t know what to say, so I went to her house and gave her my favourite marble and my Coca Cola rubber as a sort of care package.”

And while the book was written before the pandemic, it is very much in keeping with our times.

Godden, who is a renowned poet, performer, memoirist and activist, said: “Here we are now, and there are all these people who have lost someone. Some 150,000 people in the UK alone. There is so much mourning and there’s been no real national, or indeed international, conversation or space made for all that hurt and loss.”

Her character Mrs Death is partly related to her own ancestry and inspired by her Jamaican great, great grandmother. Godden describes her as a healer and a wise woman who was there as a midwife and death doula, to help when babies arrived into the world and when the old and sick departed.

Godden continued: “There’s just this one remaining black and white picture of her. She’s sitting there wearing a bandana and smoking a big clay pipe. She’s a real rebel, a real soul rebel. I definitely feel she’s there in my DNA and in Mrs Death.”

Meanwhile, former academic and chair of Edinburgh’s Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, Lance Butler, will join whisky writer Charles MacLean for A Meeting of Spirits where they will reflect on experiences of the supernatural over a dram.

Butler, who taught literary theory and stylistics at Stirling and the University of Pau in France, believes there is growing evidence to show that human consciousness survives death. This October will see the publication of his new book of essays, Between Two Enlightenments, which he describes as a study of ideas that shows how human thought is often caught between the enlightenment offered by faiths like Buddhism and the Enlightenment of the West.