Welcome to the website, and thanks very much for taking the trouble to visit it.
I am a Scottish nature writer, living and working in my own country where it gets harder and harder to win a hearing for nature or for the rights of the land itself. A vigorous body of nature writing should be a sanctuary and a mouthpiece for nature’s voice. It is my aim to be a part of that endeavour.
Three new titles for autumn and winter
A pilgrimage through the shapes and shades of autumn
Published by Saraband.
An extract from The Nature of Autumn:
The first day of autumn exhales with a berry-breath and all nature catches the scent. It is always the air that announces the change. It sharpens, cools, and gently startles.
It smells of hedgehogs. The light yellows, a pale yellow that will deepen as the season settles into its stride. Yesterday was not like this. Yesterday was the last rites of summer – old, done, defeated, frayed-at-the-edges, sleepwalking-towards-the-abyss, hollow-in-the-middle, holed-below-the-waterline summer. Good riddance.
And the first day of autumn is the beginning of everything, the first stirrings of rebirth. The forest fall (it is better named in America than here) thickens the land with limitless tons of bits and pieces of trees. The earth is hungry for these, for they break down into food: all spring, all summer, it has been thrusting life upwards and outwards, and by the last day of summer it is tired. Autumn is the earth’s reviver and replenisher, the first day of autumn is the new beginning of everything and the last day of autumn is the beginning of next spring. Autumn is the indispensable fulcrum of nature’s year.
Two new Encounters
Badger and Skylark join Hare, Swan, Fox and Barn Owl in Jim’s very popular – and collectable! – Encounters in the Wild series.
“Watch this bird poised on a tussock, awaiting a signal from the wind, a thumbs up, an urging gust. Lift-off is gently inclined and silent. The transformations from gentle incline to vertical columnar flight, and from silence to song, coincide within a few airborne seconds, a few feet of ascent. The song is full-throated from the first note, as self-confident as the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth or Armstrong’s West End Blues. There is no preamble, no subtle dropped hint of the glories to come. The glories start with the downbeat.”
“Suddenly the boar’s face was back, peering up from almost ground level beneath the lowest sweep of the spruce branches. Almost at once, the sow was right beside him. Then came the cubs. For perhaps ten seconds, no more, all four faces gleamed garishly out of the forest at me. They looked like nothing so much as characters in a puppet theatre and an absurd image came into my head of the puppet master crouched behind them, dangling two puppet masks on strings from each hand. In all my badger encounters, nothing has charmed me so utterly as those ten seconds.”
See below for more details of the Encounters in the Wild series.
Beavers, Eagles and Wolves
My most recent full-length works for Saraband are Nature’s Architect and The Eagle’s Way. Nature’s Architect (once again published by Saraband) welcomes the return of beavers to our wild landscapes after an absence perhaps as long as 400 years. It is not possible to overstate the benevolent impact of beavers on biodiversity. Their capacity for creating, regenerating and expanding wetland is limitless, with the more or less immediate consequence of creating innumerable opportunities for many other wildlife species large and small.
The beaver is a master-manipulator of northern hemisphere landscapes like ours. Its reintroduction is a watershed for Scottish nature conservation – an extinct mammal is back in our midst. Ahead of us then lie the most exciting possibilities imaginable, all the way up to – and including – the wolf! Like its predecessor, The Eagle’s Way, Nature’s Architect is enhanced by the striking cover artwork of Joanna Lisowiec and the superlative photography of Laurie Campbell.
Nature’s Architect is my third variation on the theme of wildlife reintroduction, following my first Saraband title in 2014, The Eagle’s Way (which explores the changing nature of the relationship between golden eagles and the reintroduced sea eagles) and The Last Wolf (Birlinn, 2010). If these three species can thrive again in Scotland, and if we can restore our perilously poised native wildcat, the face of wild Scotland will transform, and we will begin to win a new and more considered relationship with nature and with the land itself.
Encounters in the Wild
Encounters in the Wild is a series of beautifully produced short monographs on individual species. It is also published by Saraband and each title features the vibrant and stylish artwork of Carry Akroyd. Each book features short, loosely connected essays (and occasional poetry), all based on first hand encounters gleaned from thousands of hours in nature’s company.
Watch this space for news of two new titles to join Fox, Barn Owl, Swan and Hare later this year.