Following our open call for submissions in July, it is with real pleasure that we can now announce our first title of 2023. Red Star Over Hebrides is the latest book by prize-winning writer Donald S. Murray, author of As the Women Lay Dreaming and In a Veil of Mist, and reasserts him as one of Scotland’s finest writers working today.
A native of Ness, Lewis, in Red Star Over Hebrides Murray uses short stories and poetry inflected by his own personal experiences to shine a light on the deeply rooted social and cultural connections between the Outer Hebrides and Russia, the Baltic States and even Ukraine and Poland. Historically, there is a huge trading link between the Outer Hebrides and Russia. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Stornoway was the leading herring curing port in Europe. The main markets were in the Baltic states and island and other vessels carried the prized cargo as far as Riga and St Petersburg. Red Star Over Hebrides takes poetic licence in its examination of the social and cultural impact of these links in remarkable and varied work that ranges from everyday naturalism to the surreal.
On bringing the book to light and working with Taproot, Donald has said:
“I’m delighted to be working with Taproot Press on this collection of short stories, poems and – even – songs, especially as I know the publisher has strong island connections and an awareness of what makes these communities distinctive and unusual. Red Star Over Hebrides draws upon a few of my personal inspirations – an awareness of Eastern European history and literature and Gaelic song. Both go back to my youth. My childhood was full of tales about the creation of hydro dams around the Highlands in which both my father and uncles were involved. There they met many Eastern Europeans – from Poland and Ukraine especially. My interest in the history and literature of these parts goes back to those days.
The other strand goes back to my days both in school and the Ness Hall of my youth. Gaelic songs from the likes of Donald MacRae, Hoddan and Fergie MacDonald, Murdo John Morrison, Ishbel Macaskill and early Runrig often echoed round the walls there, prompting my feet to tap and lips to move – even if the latter was rarely in tune.
Red Star Over Hebrides draws on all these elements, including other aspects of Hebridean existence, such as the fishing industry, crofting land raids and the stories of Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy and others.”
The book will be published in June 2023, with a finalised date to be announced in due course.
A son of the Hebrides, Donald S Murray is a writer and poet whose first novel, As the Women Lay Dreaming, won the Paul Torday Memorial Prize in 2020, as well as being shortlisted for a host of other literary awards. Like his first novel, his second, In a Veil of Mist, is set in the Isle of Lewis and centred on historical events of the 20th century. In a Veil of Mist was shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize.
Donald’s previous books have been shortlisted for both the Saltire Literary Awards and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His critically acclaimed non-fiction books bring to life the culture and nature of the Scottish Islands, and he appears regularly on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland.