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STAR READ: Spotlight on Highland Book Prize finalist

By Margaret Chrystall

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Tony Davidson is nominated for the Highland Book Prize.
Tony Davidson is nominated for the Highland Book Prize.

Next month, the Highland Book Prize winner will be announced from the four shortlisted. In the next few weeks, Star Read takes a look at each.

First up, Confessions Of A Highland Art Dealer by Tony Davidson.

It might not be what you are expecting when you read the title. The real-life story of how Tony Davidson took over an old church near Beauly and turned it into an art gallery may not seem like the story for you.

But like many great books – such as that about a man obsessed with hunting a whale, or a love story set in a lonely house on the Yorkshire Moors – it welcomes you in and begins to charm you into submission. Soon, the pages are turning by themselves.

Tony Davidson is a first-time writer. His story is of how he got the Kilmorack Gallery up and running, found artists whose work he wanted to showcase, and got the building ready for that and, like any life adventure, it’s full of twists and turns.

It starts like this: “We drive in convoy to the church. Black Allan in a small maroon van, tilted to one side, and me in an old, almost ready-to-ditch Ford Sierra. We are like kids on bikes – practical vehicles taking us through a magical world. The old church belongs to Black Allan. I didn’t question why he had it. It is just what Black Allan does. He collects neglected and wonderful things, a magpie of the mysterious. This is his hidden jewel and I am about to be stunned.”

HBP judge Peter Mackay said: “... interesting on arts culture and class systems in the Highlands”.

For me, the book is surreal and magical. It brings to life a lost world of eccentrics and artistic endeavour. It is lyrical about the natural world. No word is wasted, as the author’s dry sense of humour adds to his pen portraits of the one-off characters he comes across and frames on his pages. MC

Tony Davidson’s Confessions Of A Highland Art Dealer (Woodwose Books, £8.99).

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