The News

Busy times for Saraband authors

It's an exciting spring and summer for two of our authors - J. David Simons and Mandy Haggith - as they are both making special appearances at a host of events around the country.

J. David Simons, whose new novel An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful has been garnering some great reviews and selling like hot cakes on Kindle, appeared at Waterstones' prestigious Gower Street shop in London. It is Europe's largest academic bookstore and situated in the heart of Bloomsbury, where some sections of An Exquisite Sense... are also set. At the other end of the country, David also gave a reading last week at Waterstones in Dundee. Poet, author and playwright Chris Dolan was on hand to introduce David and lead a Q&A session.

David is also busy with a series of events taking place at libraries in Scotland. At the beginning of May, he appeared at both Drumchapel and Knightswood libraries in Glasgow, and he is due to appear at Kirkcaldy library in June. Come September, he will be taking part in the Nairn Book and Arts Festival.

Meanwhile, Mandy Haggith is also busy promoting her new novel Bear Witness, which launched in April at a specially arranged Highland eco-debate that attracted the attentions of the BBC, STV and the Press & Journal. Last week Mandy also gave a reading from Bear Witness at Waterstones in Sauciehall Street, Glasgow, and on Friday 31st May she will be at the Bookmark in Grantown-on-Spey. In July, Mandy has the honour of being the Poet-in-Residence at Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens. Mandy will spend the month celebrating the Gaelic Tree Alphabet at the Gardens.


Successful Earth Day launch for Bear Witness

The new novel by Mandy Haggith - Bear Witness, out on 25 April – received a great reception when it was launched on Monday at a special Earth Day celebration of Scotland’s wildlife. The day of events, which took place in the spectacular setting of Glencanisp Lodge, near Lochinver, included a guided walk to the Inchnadamph Bone Caves, where bear bones have been found, confirming the animal's presence in the wild in Scotland in relatively recent times. Mandy is pictured here at the mouth of Bear Cave.

The day culminated in a debate by conservation experts about the reintroduction of large predators to Scotland, which is a major theme of Bear Witness. The notion of reintroducing animals such as bears, wolves and lynxes excites strong views on both sides of the argument, so the debate and Bear Witness launch attracted lots of media attention. Mandy was interviewed on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio show and the story appeared on the BBC website. It was also front-page news on The Press and Journal, and an article appeared in the Oban Times. A report on the debate and interview with Mandy was published on a second BBC article.

The debate, which took place after Mandy’s launch of Bear Witness, saw, the Scottish Wildlife Trust discussing the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland, and Roy Dennis shared his experiences of reintroducing ospreys, sea eagles and red kites, all persecuted to extinction in Scotland. Jim Crumley, author of The Last Wolf, talked about the possible return of wolves, and Mandy encouraged people to believe in the possibility of a future with bears – in reality, not just in fiction.

Mandy said: ‘The debate went really well - it was completely packed out and we had a thorough exploration of the potential for bringing back bears, wolves and lynx to Scotland. The event began in the morning with a children's event in the woods, with all the local primary school children learning about the animals that live in the woods now and those that lived here in the past. They enjoyed having the chance to think about whether they want lynx, bears and wolves back in the future - all but one (who has pet ducks!) want bears, lynx and wolves back.

‘We had a cracking debate in the evening. It was great to see so many people from the community discussing how this land could be inhabited again by the full quotient of animals that are native to it. For so long it belonged to a rich individual but it is now community-owned land, and the debate showed that there is a real appetite for a new vision for the landscape, and enthusiasm for sharing it with other animals like bears, lynx and wolves.’ 

The spectacular scenery alongside Loch Assynt, a remote, wooded area where bears, wolves and lynx once roamed.

J. David Simons' new novel is a Kindle bestseller

An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful, the latest book from J. David Simons, has raced into the Top 10 of the Amazon Kindle Literary Fiction Chart, proving even more popular than JK Rowling and Jodi Picoult in the last few days!

Amazon readers and literary critics alike seem quite taken with the novel, which is best described as a sweeping novel of East and West, love and war, truths and denials. The critic Lesley McDowell has called An Exquisite Sense 'a genuine tour-de-force', whilst one Amazon reader, 'Lone', found it to be 'at once a great page-turning holiday read and a literary experience that leaves you musing on it for weeks after you regretfully finish the last page'. Meanwhile, 'x', wrote: 'What a beautiful read! The evocative text conjures scenes of Japan, London, New York and Glasgow across narratives spanning several decades, skilfully intertwined. It has brilliant observations of human nature, engaging portrayals of complex love affairs and relationships.'

The novel was launched in March at a highly successful event at Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (J. David Simons' home town). The award-winning poet, author and playwright Chris Dolan introduced David, who read from An Exquisite Sense and answered questions from the 150-strong audience. David has already made several public appearances this year - such as at Edinburgh Central Library and at the 'Words by the Water' Festival in Keswick - and there are plenty more to come, including at libraries around Scotland and at other book festivals, such as Nairn in September.

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