BOOK FESTIVAL PREVIEW – Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr

Authors appearing at the Book Festival


A chance conversation at the launch of this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival between Edinburgh Spotlight and author Angus Whitson, resulted in this preview of the presentation he and co-author Andrew Orr will be giving in the Writer’s Retreat in Charlotte Square on Monday 30thAugust at 2pm.   They will share their ideas with other writers on how to take responsibility for marketing their books – and sell more!  Their talk is based on their experiences of marketing their book “Sea Dog Bamse, World War II Canine Hero” which has become a Scottish bestseller.  

We explained to Angus about social media presence and use of the internet for marketing purposes and have allowed him a few paragraphs to preview his own event. 

Angus Whitson previews his event. 

Andrew and I first met when we both had fresh complexions and fine heads of hair.  Andrew had joined a medical practice in the east coast of Scotland port of Montrose where I was in business. 

Half a lifetime elapsed before Andrew heard about the true story of Bamse, a World War II Norwegian St Bernard dog who escaped from German-occupied Norway in 1940, accompanying his master who was captain of the Royal Norwegian Navy minesweeper KNM Thorodd, and sailed to Scotland to fight his war for his country’s liberation. 

Bamse displayed a huge affinity with humans of all ages and quickly became a potent symbol of freedom.  Gentle when it mattered and ferocious when those he cared about were threatened, he held together the morale of the young sailors far from home.  As his reputation grew he was elevated from ship’s mascot to mascot of the Royal Norwegian Navy and of all the free Norwegian fighting forces.  

War-time life was not all work and Bamse became fully integrated into the social life of the ship’s crew and towns’ folk of Dundee and Montrose.  He died and is buried in Montrose, where his grave is still cared for by Montrosians who remember him with the greatest affection from their childhood.  

Andrew Orr was fascinated by Bamse’s story and over a period of some three years collected statements about Bamse’s life and achievements from people in Montrose, Dundee, Norway and America who remembered the great dog.  Under the auspices of Montrose Heritage Trust, he chaired the Bamse Project to raise funds for the erection of a statue to commemorate Bamse’s life. 

In 2006 the statue was unveiled at Montrose harbour by HRH Prince Andrew.  The grave and statue have become places of pilgrimage for Norwegian visitors, and the Royal Norwegian Navy who have made official visits to Montrose to honour Bamse’s memory since 1984. 

I started writing professionally in 2000 aged 58.  As a Montrosian I took a great interest in all Andrew’s work and was excited to be asked to collaborate in the writing of Bamse’s story.  Working to a tight deadline “Sea Dog Bamse, World War II Canine Hero” was published in August 2008.  It quickly became a Scottish bestseller and subsequently came out in paperback. 

Andrew and I were ambitious to do our part in publicising our book to reach a wider audience.  As soon as the book had been sent to the publishers for editing we embarked on a focused strategy to sell more books.    

Setting targets, careful record keeping, building relationships, radio and television appearances, monitoring sales all take time and effort.  Not everything works but if you do nothing, nothing will happen. 

The Norwegian fishing port of Honningsvag at North Cape, where Bamse grew up, commissioned a copy of the statue at Montrose, which was unveiled in 2009 on Honningsvag’s quay side; miniatures of the statue are also now on sale – all of which help keep Bamse and his story in the public eye, and sales of the book climbing. 

A touch of “thinking out of the box” helps – Andrew and I designed the commemorative “Sea Dog Bamse, Pride of Norway” tartan.  At this stage we don’t know where it will take us, but a first order for tartan scarves and ties has been placed. 

Be ready to talk about your book and yourself – you never know who you’ll meet. 

Look how I sweet-talked Edinburgh Spotlight  at the Book Festival launch into giving Andrew and me this preview.  O.K., in reality, it was Alison who suggested it, but I must have said something right. 

Overseas markets and rights, book fairs and festivals, networking and selling online – your publisher can’t do it all so, if you want it, get out there and make it happen. 


Thank you Angus, it was a pleasure to meet you. 

For more information, visit   Their book is published by Edinburgh based Birlinn. You can visit both of Angus’s websites and

You can buy tickets for Angus and Andrew’s event via the International Book Festival website , in person at The Hub, telephone on 0845 373 5888 or in person at the on site box office at Charlotte Square once the Book Festival opens. 


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