Island influences drive fast-paced children’s novel

Michael Riding and his Labradoodle Lottie just can't put debut novel Callum McBride down.

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How many parents can identify with a child who they want to love reading but who is too easily distracted by their technology?

Shropshire born Michael Riding was one of those parents and, influenced by his own sons and family holidays on Mull, has answered his own question by having his fast-paced, action-driven adventure novel published.

Callum McBride will appear in all good book stores, as well as online ebook retailers, on March 28, but, having been 16 years in the pipeline, the debut work has already been tried and tested and given the thumbs up by the writer’s eldest son.

‘At the age of 11 my son was struggling to find a story that could capture his imagination and not bore him with too much character development, description and dialogue.

‘He needed something fast-paced and believable in order to be sufficiently captivated to put his electronic games down.

‘I started writing the book a long time ago on successive annual holidays when we stayed at Fionnphort, inspired from looking out of the window across to the Abbey on Iona. It sat on my laptop for 15 years and was finally finished last year.’

Riding’s youngest son has autism, making the deserted beaches of Mull perfect for him, and one of the main characters in the book, Emma, is a neuro atypical, strong and capable young lady who overcomes her social anxiety to make friends with the main protagonist, Callum McBride. The author’s pet Labradoodle Lottie also has a role.

Home from school and bored in the holidays, 12-year-old Callum, discovers to his shock that he has an unknown talent: he can occupy the minds of animals and control their actions while leaving his body where he left it, seemingly lifeless.

He’s only just discovered this ability when he meets Emma. Emma is a girl with her own issues and talents – including a computer- hacking talent that has previously resulted in a brush with MI6.

As the bond between them grows, Emma uncovers a surprising connection between Callum’s powers and his adoption by a local family after he was found at less than a year old on the ferry that runs between Iona and Mull.

Throwing themselves into an investigation into the link between Callum’s strange abilities and his origins, they’re soon caught up in a plot to steal a nuclear warhead. Only by thinking on their feet, trusting each other and using their abilities can they hope to stay alive and defeat the enemy they face together.

Written with just enough dialogue to support the action and explain the unique ‘teletransferance’ ability that Callum discovers he has, the story is ideal for young readers who find other books too slow to keep their attention.