Malachy Tallack

Malachy Tallack is the author of Sixty Degrees North, published in the UK by Polygon and in North America by Pegasus. The book gained an excellent critical response, was broadcast as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and named Guardian Book of the Week. Born and raised in Shetland, Malachy has written widely for the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Scottish Review of Books and many other publications, online and in print. He won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014 and the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2015.

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Malachy Tallack is represented at Jenny Brown Associates by Jenny. For all enquiries contact

Books by Malachy

Illuminated by Water:
Nature, memory & the delights of a fishing life

Doubleday, July 2022

Travel-writer, novelist and singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack has been passionate about fishing since he was young. Growing up in Shetland, with its myriad lochs, he and his brother would roam the island in search of trout, and in so doing discovered a sense of freedom, of wonder, and an abiding passion.

But why is it that catching a fish – or simply contemplating catching a fish – can be so thrilling, so captivating?

Why is it that time spent beside water can be imprinted so sharply in the memory? Why is it that what seems such a simple act – that of casting a line and hoping – can feel so rich in mystery?

Illuminated by Water is Malachy’s personal attempt to understand that freedom, and to trace the origins and sources of that sense of wonder. He shares the appeal of fishing, its intense joys and frustrations, the steadying effect it has both at water’s edge and in the memory, and the contemplation of nature and landscape that comes with being an angler. He writes about fishing expeditions, from English canals and Scottish lochs to lakes in Canada and New Zealand, and he reflects on other aspects of angling, from its cultural significance and the emerging moral complexities to the intricacies of tying a fly.

Beautifully written and hugely engaging, this book both articulates the inexplicable lure of the river and the endless desire to return to it, and illuminates a passion that has shaped the way so many see and think about the natural world.

The Valley at the Centre of the World

Canongate, May 2018

‘The thing he felt ending was not just one person, or even one generation; it was older, and had, in truth, been ending for a long time . . . It was a chain of stories clinging to stories, of love clinging to love. It was an inheritance he did not know how to pass on.’

Shetland: a place of sheep and soil, of harsh weather, close ties and an age-old way of life. A place where David has lived all his life, like his father and grandfather before him, but where he abides only in the present moment. A place where Sandy, a newcomer but already a crofter, may have finally found a home. A place that Alice has fled to after the death of her husband.

But times do change – island inhabitants die, or move away, and David worries that no young families will take over the chain of stories and care that this valley has always needed, while others wonder if it was ever truly theirs to join. In the wind and sun and storms from the Atlantic, these islanders must decide: what is left of us when the day’s work is done, the children grown, and all our choices have been made?

The debut novel from one of our most exciting new literary voices, The Valley at the Centre of the World is a story about community and isolation, about what is passed down, and what is lost between the cracks.

Praise for The Valley at the Centre of the World

“What I’ve been waiting for: a moving, authentic novel of the Scottish islands in the twenty-first century” (AMY LIPTROT, Sunday Times Bestselling author of THE OUTRUN)

“A desperately beautiful novel. Tallack writes with such tenderness for his characters and quiet awe for the patch of earth he places them upon. Now that I’ve turned the last page, I find myself experiencing a strange kind of loneliness” (SARA BAUME, author of SPILL SIMMER FALTER WITHER and A LINE MADE BY WALKING)

“In this intense debut novel Malachy Tallack takes us to an isolated world inhabited by a community of utterly believable folk. He is great on the nature of work, how it is done, how it exhausts, how it shows our humanity. And when he gets this right other things naturally follow – like love and empathy and understanding. This book leaves us wanting his next” (BERNARD MACLAVERTY, author of GRACE NOTES and MIDWINTER BREAK)

“A vivid novel which immediately lands you in Shetland. It wrestles with big questions about land, community and belonging and how place shapes character. It lingers in the mind long after you have finished reading” (MADELEINE BUNTING, author of LOVE OF COUNTRY)

The Un-Discovered Islands

Polygon, October 2016

Malachy Tallack, author of the acclaimed Sixty Degrees North, charts a landscape of myths, fakes and mistakes, a cartography of places once believed to be real but now no longer on the map.

Exquisitely illustrated by the renowned Katie Scott, the book tells of two dozen legendary islands discovered and then ‘un-discovered’. Their stories are as colourful as the intricate illustrations that accompany them: from tales of ancient Atlantis to the revelations of modern GPS, from the palm trees and pomegranates of Southern Iraq’s Hufaidh to the freezing fogs of northerly Thule.

Journeying across history through the ex-isles and shadowy semi-lands that have faded from existence into myth, The Un-Discovered Islands introduces a beautifully described geography of imagination, deception, error and possibility.

Praise for The Un-Discovered Islands

This is a fairytale atlas, …it’s a joy to island-hop through – with the giant tentacles of a ruby-red octopus reaching across two pages, here, and a horned narwhal and scaly sea serpent swimming across a page, there. After wowing the world with Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home last year, Tallack’s second book is shaped by the same clear, sharp prose and keen curiosity.
National Geographic

Listed as one of the Guardian’s Best New Travel Books

60 Degrees North

Polygon, July 2015
North America: Pegasus

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

The sixtieth parallel marks a borderland between the northern and southern worlds. Wrapping itself around the lower reaches of Finland, Sweden and Norway, it crosses the tip of Greenland and the southern coast of Alaska, and slices the great expanses of Russia and Canada in half. The parallel also passes through Shetland, where Malachy Tallack has spent most of his life.

In Sixty Degrees North, Tallack travels westward, exploring the landscapes of the parallel and the ways that people have interacted with those landscapes, highlighting themes of wildness and community, isolation and engagement, exile and memory.

Sixty Degrees North is an intimate book, one that begins with the author’s loss of his father and his own troubled relationship with Shetland, and concludes with an acceptance of loss and an embrace – ultimately a love – of the place he calls home.

Praise for 60 Degrees North

It’s a joy to read, its prose as clear as the light on the Greenland ice-cap

It is a brave book . . . and a beautiful book
Robert Macfarlane

A subtle, thoughtful study of life on the sixtieth parallel
Financial Times

Malachy is a fine, sensitive writer with an eye for detail and a talent for descriptive prose

Nothing short of remarkable… He takes the brave step of putting himself right at the heart of the story, using his own experiences to ask searching, never-less-than fascinating questions about identity, homecoming and what it means to truly belong to a place
Scotland on Sunday