Dogskin Boy – a Scottish novel
or what happens when a Scottish guidebook writer turns to fiction.
The beginnings of Dogskin Boy go back to a long time ago, when I was the marketing manager at Edinburgh Zoo. Looking back at the job, it isn’t something I’m terribly proud of – but it was a real eye-opener about the media and how it just loves animal stories. The environment was a curious one, not just at Edinburgh Zoo, but I’m sure at every other animal collection. The quite surreal became the everyday. To be honest, behind the scenes it was all a bit grubby. And there really were some odd goings on – and the very much fictionalised account of these forms the core of Dogskin Boy.
However, I’ve spent a lifetime writing guides and supplying information on Scotland, and, inevitably, the book is set firmly in other easily identifiable chunks of Scotland as well, certainly not just Edinburgh Zoo. That’s the guidebook part – from the steep-sided Torridon peaks, via the Grampian plateau and all the way down to the breezy shores of East Lothian. (There I go, lapsing into tourist brochure speak.)
(Above) This is where Wilson Pressley, the main character in Dogskin Boy, took an epic day-hike. He came out of the east, to the right, except that the clouds were down to well below the hilltops, the light was going and the high Grampian plateau wasn’t a friendly place.
But wait, there’s more. I have always thought that our direct ancestors – the long line of shadowy folk stretching into an unknown past – must influence who we are and how we react in the present – it seems obvious. For example, I pride myself in having a good sense of direction, so it was no surprise for me to discover that in my own ancestry is generation after generation of poor fishermen, who eked out a living in open boats on the North Sea in the east of Scotland. So that inspired a fishing theme in the book.
(Above) Wilson Pressley’s ancestors fished from open beaches like this – a perilous and hand-to-mouth way of life. This is Rattray Beach, near the Loch of Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire.
This Scottish novel is about a zoo, as well as hill-walking, the sea, the 1970s with flash-backs and enough romantic interest to raise an eyebrow or two amongst friends. And there is a moody, romantic, musical and good looking male character as well, around whom the plot revolves. Autobiographical? Not really. No, honestly. Wilson Pressley is cleverer, funnier and eventually gets a proper job.
If you’ve enjoyed pages on this website, then you will be entertained by this book – especially if you have a liking for Scotland.
Dogskin Boy is available exclusively through the Amazon Kindle Store US edition (for less than the price of a bottle of wine!).
Or buy Dogskin Boy here (UK).
(You know what? I’m kind of glad I got this out of my system….)
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