Readers have asked me whether or not Hamish McHamish is real. Well, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. While he gets just a passing reference in my novel, it’s worth mentioning that Hamish was very real. Sadly, he passed away a while back, but in his day he was definitely the top cat in Saint Andrews, it was his town. Any self-respecting visitor should be aiming to get a photo beside Hamish’s statue to pair up with the standard golf course pose. Ask about Hamish and you can be sure you’ll find a local with a ginger feline tale to recount.
Hamish captured the essence of the urban cat. He went where he wanted, ate where he wanted and slept where he wanted. He pretty much had the freedom of the town. Hamish didn’t follow the rules, or perhaps just decided which ones applied to him and when. In any event, he clearly thought and acted as though he was in charge in his town – hence the good folk of Saint Andrews erected the commemorative statue to him. So, in answer to the question: yes, he was the real deal.
My recent research trip to Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth caught the best weather of the season so far. A great day, it confirmed what I needed to know and threw up an unexpected mystery too.
Inchcolm is a fabulous little island, with loads of interesting things to see. Being pretty well protected from modern development means its history is well preserved. There’s a bit of everything from ancient burials to wartime gun emplacements. Of course, there’s the local wildlife too.
It’s where I’ve set the opening chapter of The Temple Scroll – the second book in The Temple series. So I thought I’d better revisit to make sure things are as they were when I started the book. I was happy to find it’s the same haven of tranquillity that I encountered last time around – history and nature unsullied. Inchcolm offers the perfect starting point for this thriller, the island’s ordered calm a clear counterpoint to the rough ride and dangers that lie ahead for the characters. Satisfied that my facts were as they should be, I relaxed and soaked up the peaceful atmosphere of Inchcolm Island. While I was disappointed not to see any puffins this time around, there’s no doubt this place really does belong to nature.
Inchcolm Abbey from the sea.
Then something caught my attention – I spotted the gnomes. All sitting quite happily on their own little islet, chatting to the gulls – and I’m sure one gnome did actually have a fishing line. I loved them, so incongruous. How did they get there? How do they manage to keep their place during stormy weather? It’s all a mystery.
The Inchcolm Gnomes
On the ferry back to South Queensferry I decided I had to know more about these island gnomes. Who is in charge? Why are they there? Are they trapped or are they escapees? The gnomes had seeded some story thoughts in a genre as far removed from The Temple series as it’s possible to get! I started making notes, simply because the gnomes wouldn’t leave me. However, once they had taken me as far as the Costa del Gnome, I knew it was time to fight back. I had to put the notebook down and abandon ship, it was definitely time to stop!
On another cheery note about the denizens of Inchcolm, I couldn’t help but notice some of the seals are exploiting modern technology. I spotted this gang hanging out on a nice comfy navigation buoy, catching a few rays between dips – good for them, looks like they own it now.
Inchcolm Seals – taking a break.
Our trip wrapped with the passage beneath the Forth Bridge, which is as stunning a climax as you could want. A perfect ending and with the bridge’s own story in mind, it offers a great transition from the nature and history of the islands back into our industrial world.
The Forth Bridge – from Hawes Pier, South Queensferry.
Seven hundred years ago, in a time of war and betrayal, Europe’s greatest hoard of treasure and religious works disappeared. The men who guarded its secret simply vanished into history.
In Europe today, Cassiter is a sadistic killer and criminal contractor – a master of his craft. His team is searching for something secret, something very old and with a value beyond gold. His client wants results, only results.
Sam Cameron, a former army officer turned archaeology lecturer, leads his students on a fieldtrip to the coast of Fife. Helen Johnson goes too. A junior church minister and independent spirit, her yearlong exchange trip to Scotland is going well – life feels good.
Meanwhile, the apparently random and brutal killing of a retired church minister has sent shockwaves through the communities he once served.
Far from that turmoil, Sam and Helen’s summer takes an exciting turn with a find in the dunes. What are these mystery objects? What is their connection to the Knights Templar?
But suddenly, others are asking the same questions and the thrill of discovery is swept away in a rage of violence and death. Helen and Sam must draw on all their skills and experience to solve an ancient mystery and find how it links to the murdered minister. In a race for answers, their lives and the lives of those they hold dear are in the balance.
Failure means death. Success will answer the greatest unresolved mystery of the medieval world.
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