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Love, loss and little moments that change us are the focus of a new book

Author Mark Jackson.
Author Mark Jackson.

Love, loss and the little moments that change us are the focus of a new book by Mark Jackson and James Duthie. Gayle Ritchie finds out more.

Mark Jackson describes one of the short stories featured in his new book as “a modern saltwater fairytale”.

The inspiration for “Sans Peur” came from a New Year’s Day walk on Fraserburgh beach.

“A lone surfer emerged from the cold water. It was an inspiring moment,” he recalls.

When later, he related his sighting to his friend, fisherman and fellow writer James Duthie, he threw down the gauntlet. “Write about it,” James challenged. So Mark did exactly that, and soon a Scottish surfing novella began to take form.

Together, the two writers reshaped it.

“James’s writing experience proved invaluable,” says Mark. “He was very straight-talking, but kind, humorous and mischievous – a great combination for a writer.”

Another story tells of how a young crewman challenges his skipper while another is described by Mark as a “silent love story”.

There’s also one about a boy’s football passion.

“They are everyday stories and experiences – love, loss and the little moments that change us all,” he says. The book, an album of short stories called Norhaven, took shape over many years.

Mark Jackson.

It was while Mark, an award-winning short filmmaker, was working at the Fraserburgh Herald that he first met James, in 1992.

He was a regular contributor to the paper’s letters page and very much a political activist and social thinker.

He invited Mark to meet him and his wife, Margaret, at their home in St Combs, and they started working together.

A lone surfer emerged from the cold water. It was an inspiring moment.”

MARK JACKSON

James had worked as a fisherman from the age of 15, but only started writing at 40. His promising career as a TV writer was cut short by his Crohn’s disease. Despite the subsequent onset of osteoporosis, a heart condition and depression, he continued to battle with his ill-health and regained his creative urge to write. The book, says Mark, who is now based in Montrose, is dedicated to James, who died in 2009.

“It’s a collaboration with James’s family, so that these stories might find an audience. James was a tremendous talent. I believe that had ill-health not thwarted him, he would have become a household name in Scotland. I count myself fortunate to have written these stories with him.”

James Duthie.

When it came to the writing process, Mark, who has a couple of other jobs – working for a Scottish charity and as a seasonal caravan park warden – has to work round them: “I write at odd hours in chocolate biscuit-fuelled bursts.” He wrote in different venues, while he and James enjoyed sessions in his front room.

“I walk the beach a lot and that’s a great writing aid,” he says. While Mark hopes Norhaven will inspire readers to enjoy more short stories, he encourages aspiring writers to crack on with the job in hand.

“Write. Anytime, anywhere, all the time, whenever you can; just don’t stop. That was advice given to me many years ago. I have tried to follow it.”

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