I am delighted to announce that I have signed a book deal with Vertebrate Publishing, who will be publishing my first non-fiction book: The Farthest Shore.
There was always going to be a book about my strange and wonderful journey through the West Highlands early this year. The quest for the Cape Wrath Trail in winter came to mean so much more to me than just completing another long-distance trail. I intended it to be a complete immersion in silence, in solitude, or as close as can be achieved in the British Isles: a remote voyage on foot in the hardest and loneliest season, deliberately disconnecting myself from the humming galaxies of the internet.
After so long online I wanted to see what would happen, what I’d observe and experience. I wanted to find out how the web and all its strange glories were affecting my thoughts and my feelings. The only way to do that was to get the hell away from it for an extended period. The result was a journey like none I’d completed before. It changed me fundamentally – and, as winter fled, I had plenty of time to think and reflect on the radical changes taking place in our mountain environment too.
This book will be my manifesto. A tale of splendours and of mountains, but also a monument of hope for those who, like me, feel that the internet sometimes makes them just a bit less human and a bit more machine.
Here is the initial rough blurb I’ve put together (subject, of course, to change):
In February 2019, Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to hike 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.
On this journey through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learned the value of true silence, and found frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.
I’m particularly pleased to be working with the Vertebrate team on this project. In fact, they were my first choice. Vertebrate have been doing great things in the world of outdoor books over the last few years, consistently producing superb titles that have met with success and critical acclaim (many of which it has been my pleasure to review). I’ve worked with them before, to deliver Sky Dance by John Burns. Vertebrate Publishing have the vision to deliver the message I want to get across, and I couldn’t be more excited to begin this journey with them.
Why The Farthest Shore?
When I was a child, I read the Earthsea novels by Ursula Le Guin. This fantasy series concerns a world of islands and oceans, peopled by wizards and dragons. The tale that made the greatest impression on me was The Farthest Shore – a story of a strange sickness creeping across the lands, causing magic to lose its power, people to lose hope, life itself to wilt and die. As the heroes sought to find the source of this evil, they eventually came to the beach of Selidor, the outermost island facing the infinite ocean, where they found the bones of a dragon rising up from the sand.
It was an iconic moment for me as a child, and I relived it on 1 March 2019 when I approached Sandwood Bay – our very own farthest shore – and witnessed the skull of a gigantic creature standing there like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, calling to me, defying me with its impossibility. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, and not until I stood there and touched the skull did I realise it was the remains of a whale and not some legendary beast. It provided the focal point for a lot of the thoughts that had been whirling around in my head for weeks, and ultimately came to define my experience on the Cape Wrath Trail that winter.
The working title for my book is The Farthest Shore as an homage to Ursula Le Guin and her remarkable writing, but also because I can’t imagine calling this story anything else. It’s a tale that has demanded to be written. I can’t wait to begin.
If you’d like to receive updates about the book – dispatches from my writing desk, news, and maybe even special offers when it’s out – then please sign up to receive my weekly Pinnacle Newsletter.
All images © Alex Roddie. All Rights Reserved. Please don’t reproduce these images without permission.