Fifty Long Shadows – By Duncan Harley

Writing the back-page fluff for a new book is both a pain and a pleasure. The publishers generally put out a pre-publication questionnaire some months before even a single word is placed on the final page.
Well, not that final really since drafts more drafts and final drafts are likely to supersede the early content. So, ideas change and the final fluff might not resemble the initial hopeful words.

Then of course there is the difficult issue of the title.
Should it be ironic, reflective of some pun or simply be a play on some clever words such as ‘Here be dragons’ or ‘You should read this since it will make you cleverer than you were before’?

I don’t really know. But what I do know is that the joy of holding the print in your grubby hand makes up for the hassle of getting into print and the lack of monetary rewards.

Not many folks know this, but most books fail to make more than the cost of printing and sell just a few thousand copies or even less.
At last week’s Aberdeen launch of ‘When Brave Men Shudder’ Cruden Bay author Mike Shepherd revealed that even Dracula author Bram Stoker sold no more than a measly thousand or so of his first edition. Re-prints and Hollywood blockbusters broke the mould but, in the big scheme of things, Bram probably only covered his costs and was only rewarded by the knowledge that someone out with his immediate family was happy to listen to him and read his words. Most authors, and I include myself, earn around a penny per hour and I’m not kidding.

No matter, I have decided on ‘Fifty Long Shadows’ as the title of my third book. Shades of Grey is already taken and fifty seems like a reasonable number alongside which, I have fifty unpublished stories in my head.

Meantime, book two is on the horizon. Titled ‘The Little History of Aberdeenshire’ it is unlikely to make the ink-strewn desks of the local academy – replete with blood strewn tales of daring-do in the Garioch, it is also replete with sadomasochistic scenes and inuendo regarding the rich and famous of the local landscape.

Due out on March 1st next, the tome includes illustrations from friends and stories freely given by locals. In fact, were it not for the freely given content there would not be a book on the horizon. I have harped on previously about the humungous demands of the likes of Historic Scotland, NTS and others when it comes to illustrations for books. The odd thousand pound is often just a starting point for a single image and no small author can even begin to cover this scandalous demand.

My new book contains more affordable images. Most of which I have made myself, but some of which have been specially made by Lewis artist Margaret MacLean.

My point? Just that there are fellow artisans out there who freely share their talent for little reward other than the joy of helping others to find their way.

The back-page fluff for the new book reads:

‘Duncan Harley takes the reader on a grand tour through Aberdeenshire’s past. Read about Beaker People, blue-painted Picts and the Roman legionnaires who tried but ultimately failed to subdue the local populace.
William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Donald Trump inhabit these pages alongside tales of Bloody Harlaw, the Herschip of Buchan and the battle of Mons Graupius. Victorian railways, standing stones and Roman camps feature alongside stories about bully-beef, Hitler’s headmaster and the vivacious Helena Torry.
Read about the painter priest of MacDuff, the English Dillinger, the famous diggers of Inverurie’s George Square and the strange tale of how Lawrence of Arabia ‘got his scuds’ over at Collieston.
Bennachie air-crashes, Piper Alpha, the Aberdeenshire Canal and the story of Mary Webb - composer of The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen - feature alongside the various Georges’ of Pitfour, some Bravehearts, a consumptive Stephenson and George Esson, last of the Bennachie colonists. Along the way you’ll also meet Spiders from Mars, Mad Jack Byron, Biggles, George Bradshaw and Storm Frank.’

Should be a hoot methinks …

And, of course, my editor Juanita is the best there is …

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire - due out in March 2019


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