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Silver Skull, The
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By Crockett, S.R. Illustrated by G.Greville Manton. Introduced by Richard D. Jackson
ISBN 184921087x
SERIES The Kailyard Authors
Paperback  218 pages
 
Published 30 September 2011
UK Price £12.95   Order from amazon.co.uk
US Price $19.95   Order from amazon.com

Although S. R. Crockett's longest love affair was with his Scottish birth-parish of Galloway, he liked to mock himself by quoting Satan's reply to the Lord when asked from whence he came: 'From going to and fro in the earth and, from walking up and down in it' (Book of Job). He travelled the world searching for 'local colour' for his novels set, for example, in Spain and France. The Silver Skull is set in the 'boot of the heel' of Italy in the second decade of the nineteenth century and he sought to acquire many books about the relevant historical and political background before returning to the land that he had visited in his youth. His serendipity technique found him a suitable source in back issues of Blackwood's Magazine and he contacted Mrs E. M Church for information about Sir Richard Church who led an Adventurous Life among brigands while he was Governor of Apulian provinces. He was therefore able to drive forward the momentum of his story with a dramatic selection of episodes and events combined with the names of politicians and military men who were involved during these turbulent years. All great stories induce us think as well as to feel and The Silver Skull is permeated by the former Free Church Minister's faith in the religion-derived values of inter-personal reaction and affection. In a letter written in June 1894 to an old schoolmate Crockett told him that he intended soon to visit America 'on my way to see my old friend R. L. Stevenson. J. M. Barrie and I had made it up to go, when he went off and took bronchitis'. Stevenson died in December 1894, and no such journey was made, but what a meeting of Scottish tellers-of-tales that would have been!

Richard D. Jackson is a former HM Inspector of Schools and retired senior civil servant. He co-edited The Forest Minstrel for The Collected Works of James Hogg, contributes to Studies in Hogg and his World and has published essays in various journals on Walter Scott, John Buchan and Philip Larkin.


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