Neil Gunn: Bloodhunt
This is Gunn’s penultimate novel and a fine one it is too. Old Sandy has retired from a lifetime travelling round the world as a sailor and is now living in a small croft on his own, with his dog, Queenie, a cow and some hens. He is well loved and well respected by the locals, particularly the young lads, who often help him out. Allan Innes is one of these young men. He is in love with Liz Murison. When she has an affair with Robert Menzies and becomes pregnant by him, Innes is incensed. Innes and Menzies have a fight at the local dance and Innes kills Menzies. Running away from the law, Innes first makes for Sandy’s croft, both because of Sandy’s character and because his croft is at the edge of the village. Unfortunately, Menzies’ brother is the local policeman, Nicol Menzies, and a very determined one at that. The book opens with Nicol Menzies’ arrival at Sandy’s croft where, unbeknown to Sandy, Innes is hiding. Most of the book is a fine cat-and-mouse tale as Sandy seeks to protect Innes while Menzies is obsessively determined to get his man, while Innes is just trying to survive. Poor Liz Murison is caught in the middle and it is no surprise when she ends up at Sandy’s croft and Sandy readily takes her under his wing. Sandy, and Gunn, are of course totally on the side of the hunted and not the hunter, of the individual and not the law, however wrong the individual may be. Innes is seen as a sympathetic victim, while Menzies is seen as ruthless and cold-blooded. But Gunn tells a fine tale and, as usual, he has a fine cast of supporting characters, from the sympathetic, whiskey-loving vicar to the taciturn but decent doctor.
First published 1952 by Faber and Faber