Win: Toast Alanna’s final page-turner with Champagne Afternoon Tea at exclusive Edinburgh venue
From romantic thrillers to crime novels, stage plays and books for young adults, Alanna Knight MBE was rightly considered the doyen of Edinburgh novelists by her peers and readers alike.
The writer, whose love of the works Robert Louis Stevenson saw her adopt the Capital as home for her family in the 1980s, passed away late last year but left one last novel for her readers to enjoy, Mystery at the World's Edge, which is due to be published next month.
One of life's instantly loveable characters, I first interviewed Alanna some two decades ago. Her passion for the Capital, it’s history and writing was infectious and although it wasn't until the late-1960s that she published her debut novel, Alanna would recall that she started writing aged "about eight", saying, "My father bought me a book about Robin Hood and his Merry Men and I sat in the park and read it all and he said, 'You enjoyed that then?', and I said, 'Yes, I'm going to write a sequel'."
From that kernel of ambition the writer went on to pen an amazing legacy that began in 1969 with the publication of Legend of the Loch, the first of a number of romantic suspense novels.
Alanna had reached the grand age of 97 when she passed away on December 2, last year. Her passing marked the end of a career that started more than half a century earlier when, in 1964, she was given an electric typewriter as a present while recovering from a rare nervous disorder that had left her paralysed from the neck down.
Despite her condition, which lasted five years, Legend of the Loch followed four years later, published under the name Alanna Knight - she was born Gladys Cleet in Jesmond, Newcastle, in 1923.
Psychological thrillers followed, two of which were only published in the United States, as did numerous historical titles. Later, a young adult crime series introduced her to a new American audience while back home she also turned her attention to true crime, writing about Burke and Hare and Edinburgh murders of the 1900s, as well as penning a series of biographies, many delving into the life of Robert Louis Stevenson. Writing as Margaret Hope she also scribed four historical romances.
Three stage plays and a novelisation based on the television drama Strathblair also feature on her CV as do the three series for which she is best known, the Rose McQuinn books, the Tam Eildor novels, and the Inspector Faro investigations, inspired by the Capital's father of forensics, Inspector James McLevy.
Faro, a 19th century detective, first appeared in 1988 and over 19 novels made Alanna one of the most borrowed authors from public libraries. She would regularly explain that the character was inspired by a stranger in a deerstalker hat who had walked by the window of the family home in Dryden Place.
In all, Alanna leaves a total of 65 books, including her last, the final instalment of her time-travelling Tam Eildor series. A flavour of what to expect when it is released can be found in the publicity blurb.
It reads: 'When Tam Eildor arrives unexpectedly on a remote Scottish island in the year 1587 after his time machine develops a fault, he quickly finds himself embroiled in the lives of the colourful locals. Many are trying to escape the tyranny of the power-hungry Earl Robert Stewart after he imprisoned the beautiful Princess Marie, planning to force her into a distasteful marriage to tie himself closer to the throne, furthering his own ambitions.
'Aided by a motley crew including a stowaway, a pirate and the earl’s own son, Eildor attempts a daring rescue of the princess. Together they will travel the oceans in search of Spanish gold, lost loves and new futures.' It’s classic Alanna Knight.
Once settled in Edinburgh, Alanna was much respected becoming honorary president of both the Edinburgh Writers’ Club and Scottish Association of Writers, of which she was a founding member. She was also convener of the Scottish chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association.
Fellow author Lin Anderson says, "Alanna was an inspiration for many of Scotland’s crime writers. She was also instrumental in the setting up of the annual Bloody Scotland crime writing festival in Stirling, and her annual Who Done it play was invariably a sell out."
Crime writer Alex Gray adds, "Alanna was a great believer of giving other writers a helping hand, pouring the wine back into the soil, as she phrased it. A keen eye for locations in her work, she lived to ‘walk the paths and touch the stones, a habit I inherited from her."
To celebrate the publication of Mystery at the World's Edge, its publishers, Allison and Busby, are offering Evening News readers the chance to win a sumptuous Champagne Afternoon Tea for two at Prestonfield House, one of Alanna’s favourite places. The indulgent spread can be enjoyed within the historic reception rooms, on the topiary-filled terrace or in Prestonfield's gothic tea pavilion.
In addition, 5 runners-up will win a copy of Mystery at the World's Edge to curl up with at home.
Susie Dunlop, Publishing Director at Allison & Busby, says, "Allison and Busby was so honoured to publish a writer of Alanna’s standing, and her legacy as one of Edinburgh’s great chroniclers will continue for many years. It is a pleasure for us to be able to launch her final book, and honour her memory with this competition."
To enter, answer this question: In what year did Alanna Knight publish her first novel?
Answers should be emailed to [email protected] with Alanna Knight Competition in the subject line.
Competition closes at midnight, Sunday 25 April. UK entrants only. For full terms and conditions see https://www.allisonandbusby.com/terms
Normal JPIMEDIA competition rules apply, for more information go to: www.jpimedia.co.uk/competition
Mystery at the World's Edge, by Alanna Knight, is published in hardback on May 20, priced £19.99