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Malachy’s new book is first foray into fiction

Malachy Tallack photo by Paul Bloomer.

ACCLAIMED local writer Malachy Tallack is set to hold a talk at Shetland Library in Lerwick on Tuesday night ahead of releasing his first fiction novel.

The author, who now lives in Glasgow, will publish The Valley at the Centre of the World on 3 May via Canongate.

Former Fair Isle man Tallack’s stock is high after releasing the well-received travel books Sixty Degrees North and The-Undiscovered Islands in the last few years.

The Valley at the Centre of the World is described as a “novel about love and grief, family and inheritance, rapid change and an age-old way of life”.

“The novel is set in Shetland, in an unnamed and fictional valley, somewhere on the west coast,” Malachy said.

“There are just five houses in the valley, and the book follows the people who live there over the course of about ten months, after the death of the oldest member of the community.”

He added that the themes covered in the book include “connections to place, and between people, in a small community”.

“It’s about the things that are passed down and the things that are lost between generations,” Malachy continued.

“It picks up some of the themes I wrote about in Sixty Degrees North, in fact, but explores them in a completely different way. These are ideas – about home, about belonging, about loss, about how we imagine the future – that continue to fascinate me, and probably always will.”

Malachy was stationed in France for a month while writing the book thanks to the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, which sees winners enjoy a residency at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing around 45 miles south of Paris.

He said the place itself had little impact on the novel as he spent “almost all my time sitting at a desk rather than going outside”.

“What’s important about times like that, for me, is the chance to just focus on my work for a period of time, with as few distractions as possible,” Malachy added.

While Malachy will read an extract from the novel at the Lerwick event, the main focus will be on 2017’s The-Undiscovered Islands as he presents maps and explores some of its stories.

The book, which studied islands once believed to be real but no longer on maps, won a prize at last year’s Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.

Shetland Library said Karen Fraser said The Un-Discovered Islands was “our most-borrowed non-fiction book last year and many people in Shetland have been impressed with Malachy’s writing success”.

It added another string to the bow for Malachy, who left Shetland four and a half years ago to pursue a career in writing.

“When I went south I had not yet finished my first book,” he reflected.

“At that point, I had not allowed myself to imagine any kind of success, beyond the hope that it would some day be published. But I’ve been incredibly lucky, and I’ve managed to earn a living doing something that, for the most part, I enjoy doing.

“I still get a thrill to hold a copy of one of my books for the first time, or to see them appear in translation. I just hope the response to this novel is as positive as it has been for the last two books.”

Malachy Tallack’s Islands of the Imagination talk will take place from 7pm on Tuesday at the Shetland Library in Lerwick, with admission free.

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