Lochaber ‘village’ takes centre stage in new book

Author George Alston reveals his love for the mountains and his Highland connections in his debut novel The Blue Sky Door.

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A former Kinlochleven resident has made ‘the village’ the central hub in his debut novel.

The Blue Sky Door by George Alston is set in the Western Highlands during the 1970s through to the new millennium.

The story revolves around Kinlochleven and its inhabitants, at the head of Loch Leven, where the author himself lived for three years. Although Kinlochleven is always referred to as ‘the village’ in the book, it is easily identifiable from the description of its location, its surroundings and the site of the former aluminium factory, now redeveloped into a leisure centre.

The plot starts and ends in ‘the village,’ but also takes place along the shores of Loch Linnhe. Oban is renamed Bannock in the book, Fort William, is referred to as Orchy, while familiar places such as the Lodge stay the same, as does Bodach, the mountain, which holds out the unrequited dream of love and eternity for the central characters.

The Blue Sky Door follows Stewart, who deserts his girlfriend, leaves his job and departs for the Highlands of Scotland where he meets and connects with a mysterious young woman, Melanie, who lives on a mountainside.

His arrival is resisted by some of the villagers and he struggles for acceptance. As his bond with Melanie grows, she becomes more resentful of anything that takes him away from her. While Stewart is open about his past, Melanie reveals very little about her own background – and the arrival of Stewart’s ex-girlfriend adds fuel to the fire.

The mountains symbolically represent the struggles Stewart faces and the truths that he must accept, as well as providing a stunning backdrop to this novel about humanity, love and morality.

George Alston began life in Lancashire, moved to Kent then migrated to Scotland. As an avid mountaineer, it is no surprise that the outdoor world features prominently in his work. He now lives in Keswick, Cumbria and spends most of his time painting and writing.

A prolific creator, Alston received countrywide publicity for his artwork in the 1980s from the BBC, ITV, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and other news outlets. He has written articles and taken photographs for numerous climbing and outdoor magazines and also been published in women’s magazines.

‘It seemed only natural to follow this up with a novel,’ he said.

‘This is a simple tale of romance between a man and a woman, but it also reflects aspects of the human condition with which we can all identify – love, joy and sadness, greed, choice, egotism, evil, retribution, followed by redemption.

‘An original storyline set in the Highlands of Scotland, it takes us into a quirky world of individuals who all revolve around the two central characters. The plot reveals a surprise ending in which the reader, as well as being an onlooker, also becomes an important feature of the denouement.’