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Isles-born author to hit the big screen

JM Ledgard (right) working in Somalia, where his novel Submergence is based.

A HIGHLY acclaimed book written by a Shetland-born author is being turned into a major film starring Scottish star James McAvoy.

JM Ledgard, who was raised in the isles before leaving as a boy, released his second work Submergence to huge critical applause in 2011.

Now the novel is set to become a big screen romantic thriller by legendary German director Wim Wenders, with Hollywood actor McAvoy on board and The Danish Girl star Alicia Vikander reportedly set to sign on too.

Filming for the movie is due to commence in the spring in locations such as Africa and Europe.

The glitzy film business is a world away from Ledgard’s modest upbringing on Shetland, which he says left him with “fond memories of the lochs and the hills off the Clousta road in the westside”.

James McAvoy

“It is a little otherworldly to see your characters take on a life of their own on the screen,” he admitted.

“And I am amazed to be working with the director Wim Wenders. I have been watching Wim’s films since I was a boy. Those who like cinema should definitely watch Wings of Desire.”

Ledgard, who is also the director of a Swiss-based initiative that is “helping develop advanced technologies in poorer communities in Africa and beyond”, arrived into the world in Shetland in 1968.

“I was born in Shetland during a winter blizzard,” he said.

“My father was a minister in the west mainland and he joined the military as a chaplain.

“I left Shetland as a young boy, but I often went back in the summers.

“Precisely because I have moved around the planet so much in my life, Shetland has held a special place for me.

“I do often think of the people, the land, the sea margins, and the storms moving over.

“I think the scale of the North Atlantic has been a tremendous influence on me and being out on the margins looking at the big picture.

Alicia Vikander

“Even now if I am in the bush in Africa, and loving wild places, I still understand that Shetland made me a child of the far north.”

Some of Ledgard’s more recent Shetland memories are of working during the klondyker floating fish factory boom of the 1980s and 1990s in and around Lerwick.

“I worked a summer for Gordon and Davey Williamson who had a wonderful boat which used to go around and collect and deliver from the Russian ships anchored off Lerwick,” he said.

“It was a special time and an adventure to leap from the speedboat onto the ladder hung down the face of a tipping Russian ship. You climbed the ladder and quite literally arrived in the bowels of Russia.”

Before getting into writing books, Ledgard was the East Africa correspondent for current affairs publication The Economist.

Submergence tells the story of James More, a British spy held captive by Somali jihadists.

It followed his 2006 debut effort Giraffe, which was named a Book of the Year by the Library Journal.

Despite being a man of the world, Ledgard always holds Shetland close to his heart.

“I miss many things about Shetland. It has been a couple of years since my last visit and so much is changing.

“I’d like to come back and catch up with some friends, go hiking and fish in the lochans.”

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