John grew up in Kingston-upon-Spey, the small village that sits to the west of the
mouth of the River Spey. He worked on an oar on the salmon nets in the late 1980s,
and then did a season as a grouse beater the summer after.
He went Milne’s High School and Elgin Academy and then on to The University of
The Summer Crew is his second novel; his first, Sea Otters Gambolling in the Wild,
Wild Surf, was published in the UK by Random House, in Germany by BLT, and
in the Netherlands by Arena. Sea Otters spent a couple of weeks in the Scottish top
ten bestsellers and was well reviewed in the national press – The Herald called it ‘a
fast-paced romp’ and the Daily Express said that it was “unforgettable and brilliantly
John’s also written for radio and TV.
What Doric means to me
I’ll be honest that, when I was younger, I found having two languages difficult. I was quite academic, and as a consequence speaking in Doric was definitely not encouraged. I spent most of my life gnepping, as we say in Morayshire Doric – which means speaking English or speaking proper. Which was difficult because a lot of my friends in the village I come at the mouth of the Spey spoke very strong Doric. This meant that when I was gnepping I had to remember not to use words like gnepping and when I was speaking Doric I had to remember not to sound too posh. As a consequence I never felt entirely comfortable in either language. Like I was always talking in a second language.
As I’ve got older though, I’ve come to see it differently. Now I see that having two languages is a blessing rather than an inconvenience. I speak to some folk in Doric, and some in English, and I don’t have a problem with that. Sometimes I write in Doric, sometimes I write in English. I now realise that throughout history a lot of people have used two, three or even more languages to get by. And that’s fine.
What I particularly love about Doric is words like glaikit, breenge, fash, dunt and grippet that seem so much more expressive than their English equivalents. Which is why I wrote large parts of The Summer Crew in Doric. I was told that novels in Scots or Doric don’t sell, but that was irrelevant, I wanted to write something that used the words I loved, and the voices of the people I know.
And I think that’s important, because I think we have to do what we can to keep Doric alive, it’s a vital part of north east culture and we’d be much poorer without it.
The Summer Crew – Summary
The Summer Crew is a novel set in the late 1980s on the salmon netting at the mouth of the River Spey.
Summer Crews, which were a mix of permanent employees, students and part time workers, were hired to fishz the summer grilse run for the months of June, July and August. The book follows the progress of the new recruits as they struggle to learn the ropes and integrate with the older, more experienced crew.
For the most part it’s broad, gently comic look at Scottish rural life in the vein of Parahandy or Compton MacKenzie – there are chapters about local agricultural show, the village fete, a grouse shoot and the wider community beyond the salmon fishing, however, towards the end of the book, as summer comes to an end the tone of the book changes, the salmon fishery is facing hard times, and difficult decisions have to be made.
Sandy Geddes, skipper of the salmon boats on the River Spey, is worried. The new recruits for the Summer Crew are the worst he’s ever seen, which is a problem because catches are down and he needs all the help he can get. Follow the often hilarious adventures of Sandy and the Summer Crew and the various poachers, politicians, ravers, TV presenters, clergymen and aristocrats who cross their path.
“A joy from start to finish.”
Aschlin Ditta, co-creator
Catherine Tate Show
Praise for John’s first novel
“Unforgettable & brilliantly written.”
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