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An Interview with Angus MacDonald – author of We Fought for Ardnish

At the top of the new releases list in Scottish fiction this month is this extraordinary and un-put-down-able wartime romance, We Fought for Ardnish.

Following the tremendous success of Ardnish Was Home (now on it’s 5th reprint), this is a sure-fire hit for the summer. The story focuses on a young Highlander recruited to his local regiment at the beginning of the Second World War, and follows his dangerous liaisons with a Canadian SOE agent.

We Fought for Ardnish
We Fought for Ardnish – Angus MacDonald

We caught up with author Angus MacDonald to discuss all things writing, Ardnish and his latest novel –

Jenny: Firstly Angus, tell us a bit about your latest novel, We Fought for Ardnish…

Angus MacDonald: The book is the sequel to ‘Ardnish was home’, a romantic story about a lad growing up on the remote West Highland peninsula of Ardnish. At the outset of WW2 he joins the local regiment The Lovat Scouts and then switches to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), in order to fight with the French resistance. On a mission in the alps he meets Canadian SOE agent, Francoise who has a mission to complete. Their lives become intertwined; dangerous and romantic…

J: Set in the Second World War, how does this differ from your first novel? Did you undertake a lot of research in the period?

AM: The baby from the first book becomes the hero of the second. The stories of the highlands and Cape Breton in Canada are true and the details of the Lovat Scouts and SOE are accurate. The characters are fictional however.

J: Tell us about Donald Angus and Francoise, the heroine?

AM: Donald Angus is a proud, generous and capable lad, brought up in a very simple existence in a crofters house on the shoreline. A legendary bagpiper and soldier who is rapidly promoted, his love for his beloved highlands is completely authentic.

Francoise is strong, fearless and very intelligent. Her father is a doctor in Cape Breton, Canada. The deprivations she copes with during her mission behind enemy lines are remarkable.

J: Both of your novels are set (in part) in the Scottish Highlands – do you find your surroundings influence your writing? Why does this setting appeal to you?

AM: The village on Ardnish is a row of houses along a sandy beach with the islands of Eigg and Rum the view. Its impossible not to marvel at the beauty of this place, its stirs the heart.

J: Has your own background in the military influenced your writing?

AM: My ability to rise at 3.45 in the morning to write and discipline of focusing and getting on with the job may be a result of time in the army. But the writing is such a pleasure its easy to do really.

J: Since you’re not a full time writer – we’d imagine you have a very busy schedule. How do you find time to fit writing in?

AM: I write in the winter months, and the early start allows me to do my day job. The editing process as I work with Erica Munro, Jo-Anne MacDonald in Canada and Alison Rae from Birlinn is a long and sometimes painful experience.

J: We hear you have a great deal of publicity for your latest release – tell us all!

AM: BBC Alba, the Gaelic TV station, and Radio Nan Gaidheal came to visit Ardnish and interviewed me, aired on Monday 9th July. And BBC Scotland had Janice Forsyth interview me, really thorough and interested questioning. Nevis radio and Oban FM too. Lots of coverage in the regional press as well as The Scotsman so far. The Inverness Courier will run almost a full page along with their many subsidiary newspapers across the north of Scotland in mid July.

I’ll be at The Edinburgh Festival, Wigtown, Mallaig and Tobermory festivals over the course of the next few months.

J: If you had to sum up We Fought for Ardnish in a tweet, how would you describe it?

AM: A dangerous war time mission resulting in romance, ‘We fought for Ardnish’ is better than Outlander.

J: And if you imagine the reader you think would most enjoy this novel, how would you describe them?

AM: Considerate, exciting, loves adventure and the Highlands.

J: What’s your best piece of writing advice?

AM: Just get on and do it, stop talking about it and prevaricating!

J: And lastly, if you could only recommend one place in Scotland for someone to visit, where would it be and why?

AM: Two miles north of Lochailort on the A830 past the stunning ‘Our lady of the Braes’ church, park in the big lay-by on the left. Peanmeanach is signposted, put on good boots and set along the same route that Donald Angus and the hundreds of people of Ardnish before him walked for two hours to their stunning village. Sit on the rock that Francoise would have as she looked down to where her beloved Donald Angus was brought up. Wave, then walk down to Ardnish and home…

We Fought for Ardnish
We Fought for Ardnish – Angus MacDonald

Angus’s recommendation sounds truly blissful, as is his writing. We’d highly recommend We Fought for Ardnish as a summer read – it’s the perfect mix of nostalgia, romance, escapism and action. It’s available from Scottish Bookstore now with 10% off!

Loch Ness Monster Myth Dispelled!

The search for the Loch Ness Monster has been ongoing for years – it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Loch Ness every year and many people have dedicated their lives to it.

Myths around the monster range from it being an escaped circus elephant to the last remnants of the dinosaurs, or just a floating tree branch.

But have you ever wondered what will happen if someone actually catches the Loch Ness Monster?

Nessie Code of Practice

Well, believe it or not there is actually an official code of practice for what would happen should Nessie be found.

Scottish Natural Heritage have been in possession of the ‘partly serious, partly fun’ plans since 2001, and according to BBC News SNH are preparing to bring out the code again – just in case – amid DNA collection from the loch.

Catch and Release

Should Nessie be found, the SNH will protect him or her as a new monster species and they have stipulated that once DNA samples have been taken, Nessie should be released to back into the loch.

SNH have added that should Nessie be discovered today, local communities and businesses would need to be consulted about her protection.

First Minister – ‘I’m a Believer’

Just last month, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that she believes in Nessie’s existence in the loch – and she joins a huge number of people who are convinced that this mythical creature lies in wait under the surface.

So why hasn’t Nessie been found yet? Well, it’s not for want of trying. With origins in 565AD, the tantalising, brief sightings of something in the water have kept cropping up in the news. There have been numerous small and large expeditions to find the monster – including a £1m operation in the 1980s.

But Loch Ness is not your average body of water. In fact, it contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.

(and even at that, Loch Morar is deeper and Loch Lomond is bigger!)

It’s 23 miles long and at it’s deepest is 230m deep. That’s an awful lot of water to look in, and that gives Nessie plenty of opportunity to evade discovery!

Finding Nessie

So, the search for Nessie will continue – but at least we can all be safe in the knowledge that should the monster be found, it will become Scotland’s newest protected species and allowed to live in its natural habitat.

If you’re among the 400,000 people visiting Loch Ness this year be sure to keep an eye out for oor Nessie. And if you’re not, try your hand at spotting her on Google Earth!

Get Out! Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Scotland

We’ve been reveling in a sensational few weeks of sunshine here in Scotland and it looks set to continue as we move into July.

To help you to make the most of the great Scottish outdoors, we’ll be recommending books for adults and children throughout the month so that you can all get out and enjoy yourselves!

Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and look for our hashtag #greatoutdoors for our recommendations!

Sensational Scottish Books – Granny & the Wild Haggis

Now in our special value range with at just £3.59, this hilarious children’s book is a superb buy.

Granny & the Wild Haggis
Granny & the Wild Haggis

David McNiven has a uniquely funny, rhyming style, that became popular in his previous collection of stories Granny and the Loch Ness Monster.

In this book for younger children, the mystery of the haggis is revealed…

“What is a haggis? Every year millions of people visiting Scotland ask this very question, and the answers they get are very often confusing!

Granny is having none of that nonsense though – haggis is made of minced meat and vegetables, of course.

That is, until she pops one in the pan and finds it eating all the vegetables…”

Comedic chaos ensues as Granny tries to catch the haggis. This will be a surefire hit with children and adults at story time.

Granny & the Wild Haggis is available from Scottish Bookstore now.

World Cup Fever!

The start of the 2018 World Cup is imminent, and even though Scotland aren’t playing, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some football fever!

Scotland Stars FC 1: Calum's New Team
Scotland Stars FC 1: Calum’s New Team

For our young football fans, we highly recommend the Scotland Stars series from Floris. Aimed at ‘reluctant readers’, these stories are accessible and engaging, full of action and illustrations. There are also lots of extras like character cards to collect and football tips, puzzles and games.

The stories are based around 10 year old Calum Ferguson. He’s recently moved to a new town and is struggling to fit in, and is also fighting for a place on the school football team.

Scotland Stars FC 6: Calum's Cup Final
Scotland Stars FC 6: Calum’s Cup Final

Packed with excitement on and off the field, these books will appeal to girls and boys interested in sport and football. There are six books in the series as we follow Calum from his new team right through to the cup final.

Find the full Scotland Stars FC series on Scottish Bookstore here

Book of the Month – Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

Our book of the month for June is tied into our theme – June for Juniors!

450 years ago, Mary, Queen of Scots undertook a daring escape from Lochleven Castle, where she had been kept captive for almost a year. In this latest story from Carnegie Medal winner Theresa Breslin this dramatic true story is given new life.

Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle
Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

Accompanied by atmospheric illustrations of the Scottish landscape, this tale bridges folklore and historical fact and gives children the chance to learn about one of Scotland’s most powerful and infamous women.

Through Theresa Breslin’s gripping story, young readers will feel the tension of Mary’s imprisonment in the castle and the excitement of her daring escape plans.

Published by Floris, Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle will be one of the stars of our children’s range this summer.

Order our Book of the Month on the website here

Father’s Day Books

It’s Father’s Day in the UK on Sunday 17th June.

That means it’s almost the time to be frantically looking for a father’s day gift that you haven’t gifted before… but don’t fear, we have some fantastic book recommendations for dads everywhere!

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My father-in-law is a big Oor Wullie fan, so this would be a great choice for him. Oor Wullie’s Greatest 100 Moments (as chosen by Wullie himself) in a handy little pocket book!

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If your dad needs to ‘chill oot a bit’ then why not give him the gift of some new age Scottish mindfooness? The Wee Book o’ Scottish Mindfooness teaches you how to relax and let go through exercises featuring homemade jeely pieces, fitba half time pies and more.

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Or, if you’d like to make your father feel proud as punch every day of the year, why not opt for 365 Reasons to be Proud to be a Dad? This offers a dad-fact for every day of the year, and it also makes a great gift for fathers-to-be.

50470_1Now, we’ve all been there. Dragged out to the garden centre to look at a new range of sheds… just what you want on a warm summer’s day. In this retro parody, Five Lose Dad in the Garden Centre with hilarious results.

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For the practical dads, a couple of books to make fatherhood easier. Life Hacks for Dads and Man Hacks offer a range of handy hints to take the stress and hard work out of simple jobs around the house.

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And lastly, the ultimate retro gift book for all fathers out there, How it Works – The Dad. Specially planned to help grown-ups learn about the world around them, this teaches all dads exactly what it means to be a dad.

All available while stocks last, all with 10% off!

June for Juniors!

We’ve been basking in some spring sunshine for well over a week now here at Scottish Bookstore – almost unheard of in Scotland! But long may it continue, especially since we’re now in June!

Our theme for the month is ‘June for Juniors’ and we’ll be bringing you highlights from our children’s range all month – trust me, it’s a difficult job to choose which titles to feature because there are so many fantastic books for children of all ages in our range.

Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for our best books of the season, and tell us what you think of them too – we love to hear from our customers!

Sensational Scottish Book – Take the Slow Road Scotland

Hot off the Conway press is this new guide book with a twist – Take the Slow Road Scotland.

Take the Slow Road Scotland
Take the Slow Road Scotland

It’s billed as a collection of inspirational journeys round the Highlands, Lowlands and Islands of Scotland, compiled by ‘campervan guru’ Martin Dorey.

This book celebrates Scotland’s best driving routes. It gives details on where to go, where best to stop, where to pitch, what to do out and about and what makes these little pit-stops of Scotland so special.

Take the Slow Road Scotland
Take the Slow Road Scotland

Touring holidays are definitely on the up in Scotland – just look at the popularity of the North Coast 500 route – and this guide will appeal to anyone taking this kind of relaxed holiday. It’s a substantial guide in an attractive, chunky format and it’s full of photographs and plenty of quirky cartoon maps.

And for those of us not lucky enough to own our own home on wheels, there is also a comprehensive directory of rental companies for all areas.

Take the Slow Road Scotland
Take the Slow Road Scotland

This is how the author describes his book –

“Welcome to the slow road. Don’t rush. There is plenty of time. We have a lot of long, light evenings ahead of us. There are sights to see and people to meet. There are smiles to be smiled. If we do this right the slow road could be everything that you have been looking for.”

This is undoubtedly going to be a popular guide book for the summer, and it’s available now. Click here to find Take the Slow Road Scotland on our website.

Walks out West – Exploring the Hebrides with Cicerone

From short walks to long-distance trails, one of Cicerone’s 340 guidebooks is bound to give you the information and inspiration you’ve been looking for.

Explore the Hebrides with Cicerone
Explore the Hebrides with Cicerone

Their extensive range of Scottish titles include a beautiful and inspiring guide to the Hebrides set out in a large format to be savoured.

The 50 walks and backpacking routes highlight all the very best landscapes and scenery to be found on the spectacular islands of the Hebrides, a wonderland for adventurous walkers to return to time and time again.

The guide includes the best that the islands have to offer
The guide includes the best that the islands have to offer

The walks also include Hebrides classics, like the Skye and Rum Cuillins, the Paps of Jura and full circuits of smaller islands. Each walk combines clear route description with mapping and spectacular photography, while also advising on the route’s facilities, public transport access, length and terrain. The result is a collection of the very best walks with which to uncover the wild and rugged beauty of the Hebrides.

50 Walking & Backpacking Routes
50 Walking & Backpacking Routes

The Hebrides retails at £18.95. It’s available from Scottish Bookstore, along with all of Cicerone’s other Scottish guidebooks. Click here for the Cicerone page.