IRVINE author John Niven is heading back to his home town for a special Tidelines Festival event tonight (August 25).

The acclaimed novelist and screenwriter will be back in time for Marymass to talk about his new book O Brother, based on the life and tragic death of his younger brother, Gary.

This will be John’s first North Ayrshire gig in quite a few years and, needless to say, Irvine plays a starring role throughout the book – from his memory of watching Jaws at The George in the mid-70s, to learning golf at the Ravenspark Golf Club, to finding entertainment of various kinds in Eglington Woods … to sitting vigil in Crosshouse with his mother and sister.

Packed with righteous fury, dark humour and boundless love, O Brother takes as its starting point the attempted suicide of John’s younger brother in hospital, before delving back into their shared upbringing, as John grapples for answers to where it all went wrong and what – if anything – he could have done to prevent it.

It’s also a brilliantly clear-eyed (and often extremely funny) look at the impact of music on John’s life – making a fool of himself in front of The Clash at the Magnum Leisure Centre in 1982, to his time working in the ecstasy-littered music scene of the '90s.

John Niven’s little brother Gary was fearless, popular, stubborn, handsome, hilarious and sometimes terrifying. In 2010, after years of chaotic struggle against the world, he took his own life at the age of 42.

Hoping for the best while often witnessing the worst, John, his younger sister Linda and their mother, Jeanette, saw the darkest fears they had for Gary played out in drug deals, prison and bankruptcy.

While his life spiralled downward and the love the Nivens shared was tested to its limit, John drifted into his own trouble in the music industry, a world where excess was often a marker of success.

Tracking the lives of two brothers in changing times – from illicit cans of lager in '70s sitting rooms to ecstasy in '90s raves – O Brother is a tender, affecting and often uproariously funny story.

It is about the bonds of family and how we try to keep the finest of those we lose alive. It is about black sheep and what it takes to break the ties that bind. Fundamentally it is about how families survive suicide, "that last cry, from the saddest outpost".

John is well-known for his fiction, but his memoir offers a new side to him: open and vulnerable, honest about his grief and often self-questioning, yet laced throughout with his trademark dark humour.

After graduating in 1991 with first class honours in English literature from the University of Glasgow, John went on to work for a variety of record companies, including London Records and Independiente.

He left the music industry in 2002 to write full time and published his debut novella Music from Big Pink in 2005.

Niven’s breakthrough novel Kill Your Friends is a satire of the music business, based on his career in A&R, during which he passed up the chance to sign Coldplay and Muse.

He also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation which starred Nicholas Hoult.

Niven has since published The Amateurs, The Second Coming, Cold Hands, Straight White Male, No Good Deed and Kill' Em All, the sequel to Kill Your Friends.

You can hear more at the Tidelines event at the Harbour Arts Centre tonight at 7pm, which will be chaired by David Ross.