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A Highlander and his Books

The Great Scot
By Duncan A. Bruce

Reviewed by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA

This book, by the scholarly Duncan Bruce, will be as well received in the Scottish community and by the general public if not better than his first two publications - The Mark of the Scots and The Scottish 100. Both previous books were best sellers, and I predict without any reservation that The Great Scot is destined for the same fate. The author has written a powerful, compassionate, and more importantly, an accurate account of the life of Robert Bruce and his struggle for Scottish independence. He has personally given to me and the rest of the worldwide Scottish community a new fictional hero - David Crawford. Many will join me in this affirmation after they have read the book.

His first book, The Mark of the Scots, proved that Duncan Bruce is a good writer. His second book, The Scottish 100, proved he is a great writer. His third book, The Great Scot, proves he is even better! The author writes in the tradition of two of Scotland’s greatest writers- Sir Walter Scott, father of the historical novel, and Nigel Tranter, Scott’s successor to the title. Both would be proud of what Bruce has accomplished in his first historical novel. As the proud owner of 339 books on or about Sir Walter Scott and 76 of Nigel Tranter’s 125+ volumes, I can safely attest that Duncan Bruce follows in their footprints with The Great Scot. It’s as if he picked up the pens and illustrious magical writing gifts of both Scott and Tranter to carry on the tradition of their great historical novels. We can only hope he will write more of them!

Now back to David Crawford. The story is told by the author through the life of the fictional Crawford as a young teenager to an aging former soldier who jots down his experiences serving Bruce. Crawford, at one time or another serves Bruce as a page, a personal lieutenant in his army, and a confident of Bruce. In November of 1376, this 84-year-old warrior puts down his pen for the last time with these words, knowing there will never be another Bruce: “At night, before I go to sleep, I can still hear the clash of swords, the heavy breathing of the horses, the cries of men in combat. I can smell the blood and I can exult in the thrill of victory. You can read your historians, but I was there.”

Several years ago, my wife Susan and I caught the “fast train” from King’s Cross in London to Waverly Station in Edinburgh. It left after the regular train to Edinburgh, arrived in Edinburgh before the regular train while making six or eight stops along the way, as I recall, and made the 400+ mile trip in four hours. It was an exciting ride. I say all of that to say this: reading Duncan’s first novel is like boarding the fast train out of London for Edinburgh. It is a delightful, exciting ride and over before you know it. You will not snooze your way through this highly interesting and engaging novel. If you are one of those who sit on fences and do not know whether to buy or not, flip a coin to decide, but keep in mind that “heads, you win; tails, you win!” You cannot lose.

St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, publishes The Great Scot at $24.95, and says the book will be out in August, 2004. ISBN 0-312-32396-4.  (FRS: 6-26-04)

Return to August/September 2004 Index Page  |  Visit Frank Shaw's Page


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