Alistair Moffat spins a tale of Nazis in the Borders
After years of inviting famous novelists to Melrose at the Borders Book Festival, Alistair Moffat decided to have a go himself during lockdown.
And it’s a cracking romp, with the action kicking off in a Nazi-occupied Borders
Known mostly for his historic works on the Border Reivers and the natural history of the region, The Night Before Morning unfolds across Scottish landscapes in a thankfully imaginary world where history took a chillingly different turn.
Set in 1944-5, Hitler has successfully invaded Britain and young soldier David Erskine – now a fugitive in his own country after a daring escape from a POW camp – is determined to fight back.
When David and his fiancée Katie discover the terrifying truth about a secret research laboratory in the seaside town of St Andrews, they realise that only one course of action has any hope of thwarting ultimate Nazi domination. It is a race against time and fraught with unimaginable danger.
Moffat, former director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and director of programmes at STV, told The Southern: “The novel began life in March 2020 as we were locking down in the face of the Covid pandemic.
"The idea was to supply some online diversion, what I hoped might be a ripping yarn to be serialised on my publisher’s website.
"It was to be a bit of fun, certainly for me, and maybe for a few readers.
"But when the story took on a life of its own and began to move faster and faster, I could barely keep up and completed it far in advance of any deadline. I had so much fun writing it, making stuff up.”
Readers of John Buchan’s adventure thrillers and Robert Harris’s skewed-history tales will find themselves at home here.
There’s also a big dollop of influence from great Borders writers James Hogg and, of course, Sir Walter Scott, with the tale kicking off at an eerie Dryburgh Abbey, and also takes in St Boswells, St Andrews (where Moffat studied and was rector from 2011-14) and the Rhu peninsula near Arisaig in the West Highlands.
TV rights for the story have already been acquired by actor and producer Tom Conti, so there’s a good chance The Night Before Midnight will be turning up on the small screen sometime soon.
The Night Before Morning is published on Thursday, July 1, by Birlinn, priced £8.99 (paperback) and is available in bookshops and at www.birlinn.co.uk