Carl MacDougall was born in Glasgow and spent his childhood between Kingskettle (Fife), Fortingall (Perthshire) and Oban (Argyll) where he still has strong family connections. If anyone asks he says he comes from Central Scotland. He left school at 15 and worked in a variety of jobs before leaving Glasgow to spend three or four years abroad, mostly in Europe. Lengthy stays in Dublin and Paris were interspersed with shorter times in Rome and Vienna, with the South of France and the Italian Riviera in between. He has picked fruit in Israel, sold books in France, worked in a Viennese bakery and a Dublin bar, was a roadsman in Germany, a dishwasher in Trieste and cooked in a Roman restaurant.
Back in Glasgow he worked for 10 years as a copy-taker on the Scottish Daily Express where, among others, he got to know Bud Neill. At this time he was also heavily involved with the burgeoning folk song movement, working on the influential Chapbook magazine with Arthur Argo and Ian Philip. He left the Express six months before everyone else had to, published two collections of folk tales, then moved to Fife, where he founded and edited Words magazine, where extracts of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark and stories by James Kelman and Agnes Owens first appeared. While working in radio and television, he wrote the stories which appeared in Elvis is Dead. Since then he has written three prize winning novels, Stone Over Water, The Lights Below and The Casanova Papers. Billy Connolly called Carl ‘a hero of mine, a great storyteller’, and George Mackay Brown said ‘The Lights Below is a masterpiece – one of the great Scottish novels of this century.’ Carl introduced and edited the classic anthology of Scottish short stories, The Devil and the Giro, and has also written for theatre, including an award winning adaptation of The Good Soldier Schweik and, more recently, an adaptation of Molière’s Don Juan for the Highland Festival. With Douglas Gifford, he published Into a Room, the Selected Poems of William Soutar, which followed the Soutar Centenary Exhibition which he researched, wrote and devised. Painting the Forth Bridge: A Search for Scottish Identity was published by Aurum Press.
Carl wrote and presented Writing Scotland, an eight part series for BBC television, which was broadcast on BBC2 Scotland in 2004, and BBC4 in 2005.