A HIGHLAND writer keen to get his new book into the hands of the people who inspire him is visiting Ross-shire this week to offer a taster.
George Gunn says he's hoping to get people talking about some of the issues affecting Highland communities and will be reading extracts from The Great Edge, a story which spans time and space in epic proportions.
Speaking ahead of a reading and signing at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool on Wednesday night, he explained: "These days we’re more surrounded by print and image material than we’ve ever been, but it’s hard to get my books into the hands of the people I write about and for.
"We’re creating reading events because I want people to read this book and talk about it. It’s a modern story, and it has a lot to say about rural Highland communities and what I see affecting them.
"The 21st-century is not an easy time, but people need encouragement to examine and make choices about common Scottish values, and our Highland values in particular.
"I want folk of all ages to get stuck in to discussion about life here right now, and get young folk thinking ahead and being bold about what they want from the future.”
Best known for his poetry and drama, Gunn's first novel is set entirely in Caithness but exlores themes of topical, contemporary, and global concern.
The Great Edge weavies several very different story-lines in parallel, harnessing together characters and mythical episodes from periods as different as the catastrophic consequences of a tsunami that swept across prehistoric Caithness and Sutherland, to the Christianisation of the Caithness Picts.
The story also takes in the complex personal and international implications of the decommissioning of the nuclear installations at Dounreay.
Gunn sees the localisation of setting as crucial to the narrative and its purpose.
He said: "The Great Edge is a story of the modern world. The events portrayed in the novel are extreme, I admit, but they have happened here in Northern Europe before, and elsewhere, most recently in Fukushima in Japan in 2011.
"The characters in the book are fictional, but versions of them exist in the here and now, in one form or another.The comic irony of fiction is that no-one will believe it unless it is true."
He went on: "I want the reader to get a sense of where I think memory and history originate - which is in the inherited cultural psychology of every individual.
"Myth is our ancient cultural truth, our historical journey through time, our lived experience represented in archetypes and fantastic episodes. All of that amounts to the revealed meaning of our history as people.”
Gunn is keen to entertain whilst provoking discussion: "I hope folk will have a laugh at some of the lighter episodes, and recognise themselves to some extent.
"I’ve used Caithness dialect for a start, and some of the scenes have the spark and wit we’re surrounded by every day on the street, in the pub, and at work.
"Burns warns us of getting too po-faced about ourselves, and I’ve tried to be faithful to the mixed-up, but ultimately heroic nature of the human impulse to do what’s right. The job of any novel is to entertain, and I like to think The Great Edge does that.
"But I also hope it makes the reader look at the world in a different way."
George Gunn will be reading from his book at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool on Wednesday, November 15 at 7.30pm.
His book tour then takes him to Timespan in Helmsdale the following evening at the same time.
Gunn then visits Melness Community Hall on Wednesday, November 22 at 7.30pm before heading down to Nairn Book Shop for a reading a signing on Thursday, November 23 at 7pm.
He'll be at Eden Court in Inverness on Friday, November 24 at 7.30pm before moving on to events in Stromness and Edinbugh.
More information can be found at http://gracenotepublications.co.uk/