Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Fanatic by James Robertson Fourth Estate

Last Friday we had dinner with old friends who were visiting from the UK. Wyn is a conductor of symphony orchestras, among other things, and so spends inordinate hours in planes. Fortunately he is an avid reader and so is happily distracted by a good novel.

Usually he will recommend a book to me by e-mail but as he was here in Auckland he quietly passed to me a well worn paperback copy of The Fanatic with the comment he thought I might enjoy it.

You were correct Wyn I did enjoy it although it would be well down my list of favourite reads of the past 12 months. I struggled a bit initially with the Edinburgh dialect as you suggested I might but before long I was well buried in the body of the story and that was no longer a problem.

It is April 1997 and tour operator Hugh Hardie needs someone to play the ghost for his nightly Tour of Old Edinburgh. In Andrew Carlin he seems to have found the perfect candidate but Carlin’s research into the character he is playing leads to complications.

The story, set largely in Edinburgh, alternates between 1997 and the late 1670’s and in fact much of the story is set at the earlier date. They were grim days and describe an extraordinary time in Scotalnd’s history.

This is a book for those who are interested in Scotland’s history, particularly that involving Edinburgh and the Church and State during this period. It is also a book for those especially fond of Edinburgh and its Royal Mile.

This book was originally published in 2000 and at the time was Robertson’s first novel although he had two collections of verse in print and a couple of collections of short stories.

Since then he had two further novels published, Joseph Night, set in the 18th century following the Battle of Culloden and The Testament of Gideon Mack, a contemporary novel.
This last-mentioned title was published by Penguin who provide bio material on Roberston on this website.

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