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James Miller

James Miller was born and brought up in Keiss. After some time furth of Scotland, he returned to live near Inverness in 1983. Most of his books are non-fiction, such as Salt in the Blood (1999) – about the fishing communities around the Scottish coast; Scapa (2000) and The North Atlantic Front (2003) – about the two world wars in the northern islands; The Dambuilders (2002) – about the building of hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands; and, most recently, Swords for Hire (2007) – about Scottish mercenaries in Europe.

His novel, A Fine White Stoor, about a present-day Caithness crofter and his land, was published in 1992. It is now out of print. In 1995 Orkney Press published his account of the Pentland Firth – A Wild and Open Sea.

James also writes a weekly column – Miller’s Tales – in the Inverness Courier on any subject that takes his fancy, and an occasional sketch column – Intimations from Inverness - on the doings of Highland Council for the Caithness Courier. His long-running fictional serial called The Brimster Saga – he calls it his soap opera – appears weekly in the John o’Groat Journal.

His interest in languages and dialects led him to compile a dictionary of Caithness dialect, A Caithness Wordbook, published in 2001 and now out of print, with information on its history, grammar and etymology. He has also experimented with poetry in dialect, the results of which – Fangan wi Verses - was published in 2002.

Critics' comments:
A Fine White Stoor
'one of the most accurate evocations of Caithness country life ever written' Donald Campbell, Chapman
'nigh-on impossible to put down' Hector MacKenzie, John O'Groat Journal
A Wild and Open Sea
' a must for anyone interested in psychology, topography and history of the northern areas of Scotland George Gunn, The Scotsman
'a weave of hard fact and nostalgia, legend and statistics, and destined to become a definitive work' Jim Hewitson, The Herald
Salt in the Blood
'one of the best histories of the Scottish fishing industry Bob Kennedy, Press and Journal
'One of the great strengths of this book is the time spent... in travelling the length of Scotland, interviewing fishermen' James Nicolson, Shetland Times
'Salt in the Blood is a prime catch' Margaret Chrystall, Highland News


Yin muckle hill at islands Caithness
glowers at ootshookimers
them tak thocht again afore they dare

Set foot or wheel on e rod at taks

Til e north wi a nether's twists an twines;
but e same high leipered flanks
are a welcome sicht til e homward chiel
fa looks an lachs an gies God thanks.


Life unrolls at forty miles per hour
as whins drip gobbets of golden fire.
Kinkell, Shandwick, steep towered Tain.
The odds on England are two to one.
The Dornoch Firth is a sleeve of blue silk
ripped to bare cinnamon sickles of sand.
Kicked-off sharp at three o'clock.
In the Stag's Head they crack about the rules
of pitch and toss, and weight loss, over pints of heavy.
In the second half, Shearer puts one away.
The sea is an electric flash under the sky
beyond the beach where bairns are busy with time.
Helmsdale, Ousdale, Langwell's deep cleft.
A penalty. McAllister miskicks. Gazza doesn't.
In quietness of Latheronwheel harbour
fulmars, ignorant of football, voice other displeasures
and creels are silent in the sun.

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