Clanlands: Sam & Graham Compete To Be Head Boy – Book Preview

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For all of you who have been dreaming of spending more time with Sam Heughan, this is probably the only way you ever will – through this new book, written by Sam and Graham McTavish – Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other. Clanlands officially debuts today! Mobius, the book’s American publisher, graciously sent me a PDF of the text (and a couple of promo photos) so I can give you this preview.

First impressions as I thumb through – the book is both terribly funny and a lot of fun. Having met both Graham and Sam more than once, I can really hear their voices come through their writing. They’re both insulting, amusing, and at times, insightful. Graham is, by a slight margin, the better historian, but this isn’t necessarily a history book. Their friendship shines through, even among the teasing. They’re like best friends in school, both competing to be named Head Boy. The book is a journal of their adventures in filming Men In Kilts, which will be shown on Starz likely early next year – a trip through Scotland, on motorcycles, bicycles, and a camper van. The cast of characters includes the filming crew for Men in Kilts, and frequently, Duncan Lacroix, plus some REAL characters they meet along the way.

Duncan Lacroix’s Top 10 (make that 11)
Tips for a Legendary Night Out

  1. Before you leave the flat line your stomach with a loaf of bread and a pint of full-fat milk (none of this ‘trim’ shit).
  2. Take a vitamin B12. God knows why.
  3. Fill your pockets with stuff that would make ‘Black Jack’ wince, in case you get ‘lucky’.
  4. Drink two of anything alcoholic just before you close the door of your flat.
  5. Find a mate who’s even more mental than you, e.g. ‘The Irishman.’
  6. Get to the bar early. Double up with pints and chasers.
  7. Sink ‘depth charges’ into your mate’s pint, then drink it yourself anyway.
  8. Be sure to urinate outside the window of the restaurant in which your director is enjoying dinner with his wife.
  9. Break into your own flat because you’ve forgotten your keys.
  10. Start a fight with the person you’ve invited back to your flat for ‘more wine’.
  11. Threaten to execute your boss.

 

Diana Gabaldon wrote the foreword to the book, and was quite impressed. One can imagine laughing hysterically at the anecdotes, especially as well as she knows – and likes – the two authors.

I’m deeply honoured that Sam and Graham have asked me to write the foreword to one of the most interesting, unusual (to put it mildly…) and hilarious books I’ve read in a long time. I’m not quite sure what you’d call it, but then I’m used to not being able to describe my own books in twenty-five words or less, so this is probably not a problem.

To start with, it’s a buddy book. Two good friends banter (and bicker) their way across the Scottish Highlands, risking life and limb in that casual way that makes men attractive. Why? Well, because they’re both Scottish and they have both been a large part of Outlander (not just the television show, but the whole weird phenomenon), have realised that they are Scottish (wearing a kilt every day for two years will do that to you), and want to find out where their heritage came from and what being Scottish actually means (aside from being born liking whisky).

It’s also a road book. (Think Jack Kerouac, but with fewer drugs, more paragraphs, and no sex. Well, almost no sex…).

from Sam Heughans Instagram

Both of our authors do a LOT of drinking, although Graham will tell you that Sam is by far the bigger imbiber. Long sections are devoted to bars, and whisky, and hangovers… and Graham’s wine choices. How Sam learned to put on a kilt, and the history of kilts. And what’s under the kilt. Munros, castles, friends past, passed, and present. Food, edible and otherwise; singing; moments that touch both, or make them laugh uncontrollably (and wouldn’t you love to see that! Maybe you will.).

They write about a trip through Clava Cairns with guide Cameron McNeish, who arrives on an electric neon-yellow bike. Sam’s small-child-like interest in anything that goes is piqued by this vehicle. Sam knows Cameron from filming an episode of his Adventure Show, which focused on outdoor spots and activities.

Sam: Cameron tells us to grab the bikes down from the back of the camper. Graham looks at me.

Graham: Sam, get the bikes down whilst I look majestically at the trees.

Sam: God, it’s like working with Lady Gaga. He regally surveys the skyline, whilst I struggle to take the bikes off. He can see I can’t get them down. He gives me a look that could puncture a bicycle tyre. I have arranged the whole trip, have to do all of the driving, sort the bikes out, take her ladyship’s luggage to her room…

Clanlands Filming at Clava Cairns with Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish. Provided by Hodder Stoughton.

Among the fun are the authors’ serious reflections, both about their personal history (did you know Sam was ready to give up acting just before he got the part on Outlander?) and the country they both love.

Sam: Graham has impressively cycled the Outer Hebrides to Cape Wrath, Mull, Atan, Kintyre and he suggests we do the North Coast 500 together, along an old drovers’ route across the Applecross peninsula. I can’t wait because the real joy of Scotland is that around every corner is a folktale, legend or landmark that leads us to know a little more of our heritage and in turn gives a greater understanding of who we are now.

The rhythm and deep connection to the land and the knowledge of the seasons that our ‘primitive’ forebears had gave them ‘a sense of belonging.’ In Gaelic, it’s called ‘dualchas’, which conjures not only the landscape but also past generations. The Scots people were in contact with their ancestors (in battle they’d conjure their relatives to fight alongside them) and it’s a word I learnt on Outlander. It struck me so much, I even got the words engraved on my sword: Alba n’dualchas: Belonging to Scotland.

From Sam Heughans Instagram

Read all of the charts – there are likely to be surprises! Fun shows up in the most unlikely places (similar to one of my favorite authors, John Connolly, and his Book of Lost Things series – the best is in the footnotes).

Sam: When we first started Zooming, the time it took for Graham to realise the didn’t have to plug in his wireless ear-buds (clue’s in the name Graham) was staggering! He is, however, an amazing calligrapher and player of the lute.

I imagine him writing his sections by candlelight, hunched over a rusty typewriter like Scrooge, his pince-nez glasses perched upon the tip of his nose, sipping an excellent Pinot Noir. Mobile phones are anathema to the balding thespian; the internet, the work of the devil.

 

provided by Hodder Stoughton

They stop at places that Outlander fans will recognize, like the Prickly Thistle mill. They write about memories of not only Outlander, but their other projects, including Bloodwise and the upcoming SAS: Red Notice (Vin Diesel’s kids performed a traditional Scottish dance for the cast of Bloodshot when they were filming in South Africa, and SAS author Andy McNab is a certified psychopath); The Hobbit; and many others.

Sam: I distinctly remember Graham with his long johns slipping down from under his kilt (during the Highland Charge scenes in S2) during each take (not a true Scotsman this time, mate!). Moments before, he had been seen doing press-ups to get himself and his impressive chest pumped. Duncan Lacroix stood smoking a cigarette watching the War Chief knock out some reps… Graham’s mud seemed to have been perfectly placed to enhance his muscles and six pack. A mud pack. Don’t get me wrong, the man is in great shape… for his age… but I’d never seen a Highland Warrior use mud in this manner. (Graham: Says the Kim Kardashian of contouring.) 

Clanlands filming at Balquhidder with Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish. photo / Peter Sandground

Many of you participated in either or both of the Tartan Day parades in New York when Graham was Grand Marshal in 2015, and Sam in 2016. They spar about their experiences – who was better, who had more turnout.

Graham: The crucial difference between both of us receiving the honour of being Grand Marshall of the Tartan Day Parade (apart from them choosing to give me the honour first) is that my New York parade was bathed in sunshine, with the Avenue of the Americas glorying in the blooms of spring, the fans dressed scantily for early summer, enjoying the warmth of the sun, while Sam’s parade was marked by relentless, pissing rain. Mine was apparently the largest turnout they’d had. (Sam: They told me the same. Apparently, I had the largest turnout!)

Among other personalities sprinkled through the book are some we’ve come to know and love (second-hand for some of us), like Howie Nicholsby from 21st Century Kilts (personal note – during Sam’s Tartan Week, I met Howie at a pub where we spent a while talking with some other fans, and he had his arm around my shoulder for nearly 5 minutes).

Howie Nicholsby, 2016 Tartan Day Parade

There is much discussion (if you can call it that) of Graham’s latte addiction, and what Sam considers his overly-gentle approach to filming; and Graham’s recollections of Sam’s inability to drive safely or competently. But through it all, you can tell that these are two lovely, intelligent, curious, thoughtful men who truly care about each other, and who are having the time of their lives. That, really, is the gift that Clanlands gives you.

And, this a gift that keeps on giving – you can listen to these two fantastic voices reading the book to you! (Although you would miss all the, I assume, fantastic photos) – you can order the Audible version!

Order a copy today, if you haven’t already. You definitely won’t regret it. I can’t wait to see the pictures that are included in the book! If you weren’t able to get a copy signed by Sam and Graham, from Waterstones in England, you can order one from the Poisoned Pen, signed by Diana. Other links to order are on the book’s website, as well as a very cute couple-minute video from Graham and Sam, introducing the book.


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Erin Conrad