When Nessie met Darwin...
IN books and on screen, lots of famous names have had run-ins with Nessie, from Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who to, most recently Asterix the Gaul.
Now former NASA engineer turned top-selling thriller writer Boyd Morrison brings Nessie face to face with one of the greatest names in science, Charles Darwin, in his latest novel The Loch Ness Legacy.
The novel, which received its UK release this week, is the latest in Morrison’s series starring engineer Tyler Locke, a one-man combination of Q and James Bond.
So far Locke’s adventures have involved him with mysteries from the Bible, Greek myth and the supposed UFO crash at Roswell in New Mexico.
The Seattle based writer revealed why Loch Ness deserved a visit from Tyler Locke.
So far you have tackled Noah’s Ark, King Midas and Roswell in your Tyler Locke books. What made Loch Ness stand out as a potential subject for the latest in the series?
As you can see, I like taking well-known legends and turning the explanations for them on their heads. The Loch Ness monster has always been fascinating to me because I love exotic creatures, which we are still finding to this day in remote jungles and ocean depths. I’m an engineer and scientist by education, so I thought it would be fun to see if I could come up with a scientific, non-supernatural reason for this legend to exist.
Boyd and Morrison are two good Scottish names. Do you have any Scottish links, as far as you are aware?
Even better, my full name is Hugh Boyd Morrison, Jr, (my father was also named Hugh, so I go by Boyd). Because Hugh Morrison was the name of the first leader of the Morrison clan, I’m sure my ties to Scotland are quite strong. I bet I have plenty of distant relatives spread across the Highlands.
You seem to have taken a bold step in adding Charles Darwin to the monster legend. What made you decide on this meeting between one of science’s greatest heroes and one of the world’s best known, if disputed, legends?
Charles Darwin is one of the most brilliant minds in history, so I thought it would be interesting to tie him to a biological legend once I found out that he had spent a significant amount of time in Scotland, including attending the University of Edinburgh.
I wanted to imagine how an encounter with a mysterious creature such as the Loch Ness monster early in Darwin’s career could have affected his perception of biology from then on, and it was a good opportunity for the characters to discuss how finding such an animal could influence our thinking about the theory of evolution.
You enjoy travelling to research your books. What were your impressions of Loch Ness when you came to visit. Did the location meet up to your expectations, or did it disappoint?
My wife and I were fortunate enough to spend time in Edinburgh and Loch Ness last year while I was researching locations for the book in Scotland, and the scenery was even more breathtaking than we were expecting. With its dark foreboding water and heavily forested hillsides, I can understand why Loch Ness evokes such mystery and intrigue amid its beauty.
Although it was cold and rainy for part of our late-Spring visit, we’re used to that weather living in Seattle. The spectacular setting of Urquhart Castle right on the shore of the loch seemed like a perfect location to include in the story, but I won’t spoil how it figures in.
You are an engineer, so too is your hero, Tyler Locke. How much of you is in Tyler?
Given that we’re the same height and both engineers, there’s a little of me in Tyler, although he’s much braver and cleverer in dangerous situations than I ever would be, not to mention better looking.
But it was only after I had written a couple of books that I realized that Tyler is an idealized version of my father, who passed away when I was 10. Like Tyler, my dad was an engineer, a graduate of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and served in the Army (Tyler in Iraq and Afghanistan, my father in Europe during World War II). I think many sons can imagine their fathers as action heroes, so I’d say that Tyler Locke is an homage to him.
One of the people you acknowledge in the book is well known Loch Ness boat skipper George Edwards, who has since stirred up controversy after admitting he hoaxed pictures of Nessie. Had you heard this, and if so, would you care to give an opinion as to whether he has helped or hindered the Nessie industry/legend?
That series of events shows just how hard it is for us fiction authors to stay ahead of the news. I heard about his admitting to the hoax only after the book was ready for the printer. When Mr Edwards took my wife and me for a tour of the loch, we were the only passengers on the boat, and he shared a lot of information about the loch and the legend that influenced my story, so I found the experience quite valuable.
One of his theories is that Nessie could be a sturgeon, and that idea made its way into the story. I think the legend is too well-entrenched to be affected either way by a single incident such as this one. Just look at how much press the story has garnered. We’re all still fascinated by the subject of Nessie.
And finally the big question: Are you a Nessie sceptic or believer? And did visiting the area and researching the subject sway your pre-existing opinion one way or the other?
I tend to be a sceptic myself, although the notion of finding a creature in Loch Ness is certainly appealing. When we visited the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit, I was surprised at how sceptical the exhibit was about the existence of Nessie. I was happy to see that they took a sober and scientific approach to the legend, rather than playing up the mystery for all it’s worth as I had expected. There’s no way Nessie can be a dinosaur, as one of the most outrageous theories supposes — and I talk about why in the book — but might there be something else lurking under the water?
You can’t disprove a negative, so I’ll keep my eye out for someone with irrefutable evidence of Nessie’s existence. After all, we authors depend on imagining "what if?"
• The Loch Ness Legacy by Boyd Morrison is out now as a Sphere paperback, priced £7.99.
It is also available as an ebook.