Review: The Complete Lachlan by Grant Hutchison

One of the nice things about having produced this blog for so long now is that review copies of books turn up — unsolicited — quite regularly. I never know what to expect and sometimes I’m left a little speechless by what I read!

The Lachlan stories made their first appearance in The Angry Corrie — ‘Scotland’s Finest Hillwalker Fanzine’ — in 1993. As you might imagine these are stories that are centred around the rather mad and obsessive world of the munro bagger.

The hero — or more appropriately — anti-hero of these stores is quite a character. Lachlan is big character and a big man, short of social graces but big on imagination. He is never happier then when in hills, often chasing some bizarre idea or adventure. He’s a man of no nonsense habits I suppose you could say. Not for Lachlan the endless debate about whether eVent or Gore Tex is better or whether trail shoes are better than boots. This is a man who would spend the night in a black bin bag rather than an expensive bivy. He is what highland writer Cameron McNeish would call “a mountain bum”. (Come to think of it there is more than a little of Lachlan about Cameron — but I digress ….) Lachlan is not a man you’d really want to spend a night with in an isolated bothy.

But our hero is no complete idiot. He knows his Scottish history and many of his capers are anchored in Scots culture and a general antipathy to the English (no bad thing in my view). He has one great weakness (even more so than his personal hygiene habits). Lachlan can’t pass over a money making scheme. The twelve stories here all centre around some madcap caper hatched by Lachlan and faithfully recounted by the narrator, his long suffering bagger friend from childhood, playing Watson to our hero’s Holmes.

The stories are light easy to read and generally amusing but every now and then something in them really cracked me up in hysterical laughter. I have to hand it to Lachlan; his schemes cover a wide range of territory.

Here we follow our hero’s exploits such as the invention of bionic long johns which capture kinetic energy on downhill sections and use this to power an exoskeleton to speed him at impossible speed up the hills. There’s a search to discover the Stone of Destiny. Most people think the English took this to Westminster but Lachlan is convinced the canny Scots passed off the English with a pale imitation of the real thing. By a series of magnificent deductions Lachlan reckons he has found the original  in a warehouse in East London. He has the receipt and the couple of them travel to London to retrieve the item which they then return to the Highlands. Only something goes wrong — which is is no doubt why we have never heard of the return of the stone!

In other adventures Lachlan shows an uncanny knack of pre-empting mainstream inventions (the US forces of our course working on real bionic trousers). Lachlan’s GPS device kind of pre-dates the SPOT devices used today by many walkers, only he hasn’t quite got the design right. In other historical settings Lachlan thinks he has discovered a lost hoard of Roman loot and his explorations to retrieve it find him and his colleague sleeping overnight in an army shooting range.  Some of the adventures are more social. Does Lachlan really meet an alien? And there’s a hilarious reunion with a high school sweetheart — a high school fantasy of lust.

The stories are definitely set in the ’90s and can feel a little dated but Hutchinson has a great eye for a one liner. On a first excursion to London Lachlan is despatched to a phone box to find a room for the night. He gives up on the yellow pages but finds a really cheap room listed on a card stuck in the box. Much is predictable I guess but I loved the line when our two explorers finally make it to this really seedy hotel. What are complaining about — you’ve spent a night in Corrour bothy!

The story here about the two travellers finding them stranded in the Highlands after having lost all their money is eye-wateringly funny. Lachlan’s emergency plan involves ripping off the locals inn bars with dodgy magic tricks. I won’t mention how the story ends.

In general these stories made me smile rather than laugh out loud. But if any of this captures a bit of your imagination then why not hunt this down — it only costs £2.66.

If you regularly take a Kindle or e-reader with you on long nights in a tent of bothy then then you may well find a stroll through these stories is a perfect way to pass the time!

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