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Features / Malachy explores islands no longer on map

Writer Malachy Tallack talking at a launch event for 'The Un-discovered Islands' at the Old Hairdresser's in Glasgow last week. Photo: AB Cassidy Photography

SHETLAND author Malachy Tallack has released his latest book The Un-Discovered Islands – and it looks like the publication is set to go global.

The Glasgow-based writer, who enjoyed success last year with travel book Sixty Degrees North, documents and explores islands once believed to have been real but no longer on the map.

The book has been released through Polygon in the UK, and Picador have now offered to buy the rights for the US.

The Guardian hailed it as “one of the best new travel books”, while the Sunday Herald called it “intrepid, intellectual fun”.

Tallack said that the inspiration for The Un-Discovered Islands stemmed from a section removed from his last book about two islands once believed to have existed.

COMPETITION: We have three copies of The Un-Discovered Islands to give away. For a chance to win one, send your name, address and the answer to the following question to news@shetnews.co.uk. “What is the title of Malachy Tallack’s previous book?” The deadline for entries is noon on Saturday 29 October.

“The idea for this book emerged out the last one. I wrote a chapter for Sixty Degrees North about two islands – Frisland and Thule – which at one time or another were believed to lie at that latitude,” he said.

“At the last minute I decided to cut that section from the book as it didn’t really fit with the overall tone. But the idea still fascinated me, so I started to research other islands that had disappeared from the map. That research expanded into this book.”

The striking cover of 'The Un-Discovered Islands', illustrated by Katie Scott who has worked with the New York Times and the BBC.

He tells tales of the likes of Drogeo, Icaria, Podalida and Neome, which featured on maps centuries ago but no longer actually exist.

The writer hopes the book will appeal to “anyone who is interested in islands, in cartography and in history” – but he tried to tell the tales in an “engaging and entertaining” way, giving a more universal hook.

The Un-Discovered Islands is superbly joined by illustrations from the London-based Katie Scott, who specialises in botanical drawings.

“She also has a kind of fantastical side to her work, and that combination is exactly what these tales needed,” Tallack added.

The writer, who is also known to dabble in music, saw his previous effort Sixty Degrees North named BBC Radio 4’s book of the week last year.

It also got the Waterstones’ Scottish book of the month title, while it received a US deal via Pegasus too.

So did Tallack feel the pressure when penning his next effort?

“There is quite a lot of pressure with a second book, knowing that you’ll have readers who expect something from you, after enjoying the first,” he said.

“But the fact that The Un-Discovered Islands is so different from Sixty Degrees North has made that easier in a way. It’s a follow-up, but definitely not a sequel.”

The Shetlander isn’t resting on his laurels, however. Tallack has been beavering away for the last year and half writing another book. This time, though, it’s fiction.

He was given the Scottish Book Trust’s Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship for the work last year, as well as funding from Creative Scotland.

“I’m hoping to be done by early next year, so with any luck somebody will want to publish it,” Tallack said.

“It’s set in Shetland, within a small community, but that’s about all I can tell you for now.”