Fifth Anniversary Retrospective
In July 2020, Extremis Publishing reached a landmark - our fifth anniversary in publishing. In this feature, we be take a look back over some of our titles from our first five years and provide some background information beyond just the books' subject matter, in order to build a picture of our publishing journey with our authors so far.
Starting at the very beginning, An Innocent Abroad: The Misadventures of an Exchange Teacher in Montana by David M. Addison was to be the first book ever to be published by our company back in 2015. David's entertaining travel memoirs, which recount his time as an exchange teacher in the American State of Montana in the late 1970s, the book explains the many adventures (several of them somewhat unexpected) that he, his wife and young family experienced during their year's stay in the United States. It encapsulates a very specific time in history and a vibrant culture and community, very different teaching methods from those he had used in Scotland... as well as exploring the lasting friendship between two countries separated by a common language!
Because this was our first book, producing it was a learning experience for all of us. (Thankfully after more than twenty books, we now have the process a bit more streamlined than before!) David was already a successful and award-winning published author when he joined us at Extremis in 2015, and this was just to be the start of his professional relationship with our company as he has now produced six books with Extremis - and a seventh is already on the way. David had been a high school teacher of English for many years before turning his hand to writing books, and his dry wit and humorous observations of life across the globe have been entertaining readers ever since.
An Innocent Abroad was the subject of our first public event, with David delivering a presentation, readings and a book-signing in 2016 at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. It was a really exciting time for us all, and marked the beginning of our first five years of literary endeavours! Even now, we never tire of knowing that our books are available to buy internationally, or that many of the people who David knew and befriended in America have copies of their own. Following An Innocent Abroad, David published a number of other travel-related titles with Extremis, with subjects ranging from the Amalfi Coast to Scotland's famous North Coast 500 route in the Highlands.
Shortly after came The Spectrum of Adventure by Thomas A. Christie. This was one of our earliest titles - released in 2016 - and Tom's first book for Extremis Publishing (though he had previously written several books which had been published by a number of other companies). This book combined Tom's literary background with his love of retro computing, as it is a history of interactive fiction on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum - popularly known as "text adventure games" - which were produced during the golden age of British computers in the 1980s. That era was a hugely influential one which laid much of the groundwork for the modern gaming industry as we know it today, and Tom had been preparing for some years to write a book that would chart the development of interaction fiction over the course of the decade.
While the cultural history of home computing is a subject of growing interest, it wasn't just a case of reflection and analysis. We also had a bit of fun with the video promo for the book, as Michael McGinnes - collections manager at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum - arranged for Tom to have access to some of the retro computers in the museum's collections during the filming of the feature. The video itself was a parody of the old science programmes that were a staple of eighties TV schedules. Sobering to think that the pioneering "Speccy" had now become a museum piece! Tom has continued to write for Extremis since, with volumes on classic and modern cinema as well as an exploration of dementia in modern popular culture.
Next to join our catalogue of authors came Colin M. Barron, a highly experienced and prolific author who had written widely for a number of journals and periodicals. Colin has published numerous books with Extremis, with subjects ranging from public speaking to action movies. Arguably his most prominent title with our company was his tenth book, which was published in 2019 - a fact which was noted with much interest in the local press at the time. Travels in Time: The Story of Time Travel Cinema is a chronological guide to the history of time travel on the big screen, presenting a discussion which reaches from the earliest days of cinema all the way up to the latest sci-fi and fantasy releases.
A medical doctor with a lifelong fascination for science and technology, Colin brought his renowned observational skills to bear on this endlessly popular genre, examining high-profile time travel movies such as The Time Machine, Somewhere in Time and Back to the Future in addition to many lesser-known titles which have slipped into obscurity over the decades. With considerable wit and verve, he related the full story of this category of film with clarity and concision to ensure that the book was popular with sci-fi fans and cinema enthusiasts alike.
Travels in Time was launched at a special signing event in April 2019, held at the legendary Little Shop of Heroes comic store in Dunfermline. Colin was on hand to meet members of the public and talk about his book, as well as autographing copies in-store. Since then, Colin has continued to write regularly and has become particularly well-known for his well-regarded fiction titles.
Joining us soon after was Ed Dixon with his fascinating book Tales from the Western Front. This informative 2017 collection of real-life historical tales was drawn from across the Great War, each true story focusing on the lives of some incredible figures including an early flying ace, a tank commander turned golfing pro, numerous Victoria Cross awardees, and even a regimental monkey with a remarkable tale to tell.
Ed's inspiration for the book came from many years of visiting war graves in Belgium and France when conducting guided tours for Scottish school pupils. A senior high school teacher of history for many years, Ed brought keen insight to his observations as he considered many of the untold stories of the First World War, drawing in accounts of the people he met on his travels as well as the individual lives which were affected by this most momentous of global conflicts. He brought each of these real people from the past to life in a very immediate way, ensuring that they were not simply related as historical figures but rather as living, breathing individuals whose stories were sometimes tragically cut short by the war, yet in other cases would continue for decades afterwards.
The year 2018 brought with it the publication of The Fearn Bobby: Reflections from a Life in Scottish Policing by Ian McNeish. The Fearn Bobby was Ian's debut book, and told the story of his career in the police service from early days as a constable on the rural beat in the Highlands to his time spent policing communities in the Central Belt of Scotland, working on various projects supporting the areas he worked in, and eventually to being promoted to a senior officer role at Police Headquarters in Stirling.
Ian wrote with great frankness about the rapid changes he witnessed in society, and in the police service specifically, during his time with the force. He related harrowing tales as well as many humorous anecdotes from his long career, and painted a picture of a life spent in the pursuit of fairness as well as serving diverse communities across Scotland. Alongside the harrowing events that he witnessed during his time in the force, there are many humorous and entertaining anecdotes which prove that life is sometimes stranger than fiction.
The Fearn Bobby was launched at a special event held at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in April 2018, where Ian gave readings from his book, delivered a presentation and took questions from the audience, followed by a book signing session afterwards. Since then, Ian's writing has continued to go from strength to strength, and his latest title - From Dumyat to Mont Blanc: Being Alive with Mountains - was published in 2020.
The same year brought us The Grocer's Boy: A Slice of His Life in 1950s Scotland by Robert Murray. Robbie was a first-time author at the time of the book's publication, and a very active member of Dundee's Tay Writers Group. Following a long career in the commercial retail sector, Robbie penned this nostalgic memoir which looked back on the foundations of his career as a delivery boy for the famous William Low & Co. Ltd. grocery chain.
From early days on a temperamental delivery bike through to his formative management experiences, Robbie discusses a life full of unanticipated - and often amazing - incidents, along with plenty of amusing and thoughtful anecdotes about a post-War Scotland that was changing rapidly. Eventually his eventful career would see him appointed as the youngest ever manager of a Wm Low branch at only nineteen years of age.
The launch of The Grocer's Boy took place at the Station Hotel in the beautiful Angus town of Carnoustie, where much of the book's action takes place, in May 2018. Robbie gave a presentation about his work before taking part in a Q&A session and signing copies of his book for attendees. Since then, Extremis Publishing has published the text of Robbie's well-known play The Spirit of Robbie Burns, which has been performed widely across Angus and in other venues across the country.
In 2019, Murray Cook joined Extremis Publishing with his book Digging into Stirling's Past: Uncovering the Secrets of Scotland's Smallest City. A popular speaker and lecturer around Scotland and beyond, Murray is Stirling's Burgh Archeologist, and he brought his vast knowledge of the area's history to bear on what was to become the first full-colour book to be published by Extremis.
An area that has been settled for millennia, there is no shortage of history in Stirling, and in his fully-illustrated book Murray discusses many fascinating areas of the city - its famous landmarks, its many mysteries, and several curiosities that are situated just off the beaten track. From its long-running relationship with Scottish royalty to its remarkable architecture and continuing cultural significance, Murray left no stone unturned in his attempt to highlight what it is about Stirling that makes the city such a distinctive place.
Digging into Stirling's Past was launched at a special event at Made in Stirling, the city's creative arts collective, in October 2019. Murray gave a presentation about his work, answered questions from the audience, and was on hand to sign and personalise copies of his book for purchasers. The event was also attended by Stirling's Provost, Councillor Christine Simpson. Murray has written widely for both an academic and mainstream readership, and continues to publish new work regularly. His next book with Extremis Publishing is forthcoming.
The most recent author to join Extremis Publishing prior to its fifth anniversary has been none other than Julie Christie, the company's co-director, who in 2020 collaborated on The Heart 200 Book with her brother Tom Christie. Written with the full approval and co-operation of the Heart 200 team, this book was a companion guide to the Heart 200 route - a new road trip which winds through Stirlingshire and Perthshire, taking in some of the most beautiful sights in all of Scotland.
Fully illustrated with colour photographs, Julie and Tom travelled through the route's many locations and delved into the history and culture of these amazing towns and villages, meeting some incredible people and encountering unforgettable experiences along the way. The Heart 200 contains something for everyone, from outdoors pursuits to historical sites, so there was no shortage of places to recommend - especially when it came to literary connections and filming locations, given that the area has long been beloved of creative artists.
Since the publication of The Heart 200 Book, Extremis Publishing has become an ambassador member of Heart 200 and actively continues to promote this incredible region to visitors and residents alike. If there's one thing to be said for Scotland, it's that there is always something of interest happening. It really is the best possible place to live and work.
This brief summation of our first five years just scratches the surface of a wonderful journey that has brought us so many new friends and amazing surprises. We've produced video promos (including our annual Christmas adverts), started a monthly podcast, and continue to plan new releases for the months and years ahead. The Extremis journey is still only just beginning, so please do bookmark our news page and follow us on social media to hear about our latest books and events as they happen. Here's to the next five years... and beyond!