I’m off back to Wigtown this weekend. In part for a short break but also to sign some books that were ordered after the Beltie Books event, a couple of weeks ago. The owner, Andrew Wilson, kindly hosted this – his interest in Pabay: An Island Odyssey having been sparked over the summer. This was during the Wigtown Book Festival – the first I’ve been able to attend since February 2020, at Pitlochry’s Winter Words. Then came Covid.

The Beltie Books evening was a splendid occasion, with the coffee lounge area of the shop more or less full to capacity. It was great to see so many people: Wigtown isn’t the most likely place to attract interest in a book about a small island off Skye, several hundred miles to the north.

It was a delight that Doug Henderson, an old friend from the Strathclyde University days, chaired proceedings. While I went off into a career as an historian, Doug followed the political route, first as a trade union official and then a Labour MP for one of the Newcastle seats. He served as a minister during Tony Blair’s period as PM, but has now retired. I have too, but the research and writing habits are now so deeply ingrained, I’ll be carrying as a Scottish historian as long as I’m able.

As with other audiences before Covid put a stop to in-person talks about Pabay, the Wigtown crowd were interested and appreciative. Lots of questions which, happily, some of those present are going to find answers to when they read the book.

If there’s a lesson from this it’s that there’s a real enthusiasm for books out there, which authors ignore at their peril. And they miss something important too: connection with readers and potential readers. Writing’s a long, necessarily long process. So for me it’s a genuine pleasure to talk about what I’ve done. And if people buy a book like Pabay, so much the better!

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