About James

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Click here to read an interview with me in the Scotsman.

about me


I was born in 1949 in my grandparentsí house in Perthshire but lived in the New Town of Edinburgh till I was nine, a stone's throw from Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Heriot Row. By that time Iíd been sent to boarding school, a large draughty house on the east coast of Scotland. Then the family moved out of Edinburgh and I spent my teenage years between the Perthshire countryside and boarding school near Oxford.


I studied classics at school and then went to Aberdeen University to read law. During the summer vacations I travelled as much as I could. I'd already been to South Africa and Kenya in the year after leaving school, now I travelled all round Europe. One summer I drove out to Iran with three friends in an old Volkswagen camper van. We were in Tehran, watching the TV in a scruffy downtown bar, when we saw Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon, on 20 July 1969.


I graduated from Aberdeen in 1971 and went to London, but I found it hard to settle into a serious job and after a year doing this and that, I took off and went travelling again, this time in South America. That trip, by land from Buenos Aires to Toronto, via Macchu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands (among other spectacular places), remains one of the most exciting years of my life. When I got back I wrote a couple of articles about it that won travel-writing awards. 35 years later I still think about it all the time.


By then I'd already published a couple of short stories, one in the 12th Pan Book of Horror Stories, one in an anthology called Gaslight Tales of Terror. Why I wrote those stories I can't imagine - these days any kind of horror terrifies me - but I was proud to get them published and it was exciting being in print. I wanted to carry on with my own writing, but earning a living soon took over and I spent the next 15 years in London working as a journalist, publisher and business writer.


I always knew, though, that one day I would write novels and return to Scotland. In the end I did both in the same year, when I was 40. Some people move house and have babies. I moved back to Scotland and published my first novel, which is almost the same thing.


Today I live with my wife, two of my four children, and two cats, in the village of Birnam, across the river Tay from Dunkeld. It's one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, right on the edge of the Highlands. Being back among the hills again makes me feel I'm where I belong.


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