Monday, April 15, 2013

The Genesis of the Glorious Twelfth

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My guest this week is Alan Calder, author of The Glorious Twelfth, a mystery/suspense novel set in Scotland.
    The Glorious Twelfth is set in my native Caithness where I was brought up and went to school. The most northerly Scottish mainland county has a particular atmosphere. It lies beyond the Highlands, the people a mix of Viking and Gael, the land littered with the stones of its prehistory, the geography dominated by the rugged cave infested cliffs of old red sandstone, the sky vast and the sea always brooding. Indeed the sea has always played a vital role in Caithness life, especially during the 19th century when the herring fishing became established and provided the basis of between the wars writer Neil Gunn’s famous novel, The Silver Darlings. Caithness is a unique place and a fitting setting for the first novel that I began to write.
    In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates that the Holy Grail lies buried in the filled in crypt of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh. This mysterious church was built by the Sinclairs in the first half of the fifteenth century, by which time the clan was well established in Caithness where it still holds the Earldom. Caithness, then remote and inaccessible, would have provided a much better hiding place for the Grail than Rosslyn, especially after the Sinclairs began to build a series of heavily fortified castles round the Caithness coast. 
    In Caithness, the Sinclairs also built several mausoleums where many generations of their upper echelons were laid to rest. One of these, an enchanting building with an ogive shaped roof, is built over the remains of an ancient chapel to St Martin and surrounded by a graveyard which once contained a class II Pictish stone, conferring great antiquity on the site.  So the mystery of the Sinclair Clan is the main driver of the novel.
    The Glorious Twelfth opens on an archaeological dig led by archaeologist, Ben Harris, on the land of Sir Ranald Sinclair. Ben is soon distracted both by the laird’s beautiful daughter, Fran and artefacts that point to a medieval shipwreck near a cave that he discovers is connected by a tunnel to Sir Ranald’s mausoleum.  

Alan Calder is a Scottish born writer who divides his time between Yorkshire and his native Caithness. He is married to Jennifer and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He has BSc and PhD degrees in chemistry from the University of Aberdeen.
    Writing novels and poetry follows a successful career in research and marketing with ICI/Zeneca. He was made a CBE in 1996 for services to the chemical industry. He is also interested in fishing, walking and photography. His first book, The Stuart Agenda, was published in 2011.


    The Glorious Twelfth opens as archaeologist Ben Harris finds a Celtic stone and evidence of a medieval shipwreck on the Noster estate of Sir Ranald Sinclair. Careless talk by Ben at a conference in Paris sparks off a robbery at  Sir Ranald’s mausoleum, uncovering a treasure that has been hidden for centuries. The robbery follows the opening day of the grouse season, hence the title of the book. The chief villain, grail fanatic Russian Boris Zadarnov, also abducts Sir Ranald’s wayward daughter, Fran, who is already in love with Ben. American oilman Al Regan, a neighbour of Sir Ranald, leads a rescue party to Paris where Fran is freed and most of the treasure recovered, but the thieves escape with a ruby encrusted chalice
    For a series of misdemeanours, Ben is sacked from his university job. He finds consolation in the arms of Fran and moves north to continue treasure hunting, making the discovery of his life near one of the ancient Sinclair castles. Has he found the greatest archaeological prize in Christendom, the Holy Grail? Will he be able to protect it from the malevolent attention of the Russians?
    The genre is mystery/suspense with a streak of romance running all the way through. The action takes place mainly in Caithness with forays to Edinburgh, France, Italy, Egypt and Poland. The book can be downloaded to e-readers from Amazon or the publisher’s website.
    Buy Links for The Glorious Twelfth
    Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon


Polly Iyer said...

Sounds like great fun, Alan. Did researching this book create an interest in archeology or was it something that always fascinated you?

Maryn Sinclair said...

Couldn't help but wonder if my ancestors had anything to do with the history in your novel.

Ellis Vidler said...

Alan, you've hit on some of my favorite things--Scottish history, archaeology, and suspense. I'm sure I'll enjoy The Glorious Twelfth. Looking forward to it?
BTW, one of my ancestors was Redmon McFarlane from Scotland--long, long ago.

Alan Calder said...

Thanks all for the comments. I have a long standing interest in archaeology especially in the north of Scotland which is particularly rich in sites. In a future blog I'll be talking in more detail about how archaeology helped to inspire the writing of The Glorious Twelfth. Interesting to note the Scottish ancestry of Maryn and Ellis. My wife is also a Sinclair and Calder has strong Caithness affiliations. In the north it's always interesting to wonder whether you're of Viking descent. I know from Y chromosome analysis that I'm not. I'm a descendant of the original hunter gatherers who moved into Britain after the Ice Age. Best wishes

Georgia Ruth said...

I would like to read your future blog on inspiration of the plot for this book. Where? I am curious whether you outline or write to see what you are going to say (Flannery O'Connor). Do you have a favorite author in this historical thriller genre? Enjoyed the post. Thanks Ellis for the spotlight.