Jenny Turner writes:
In 1951, Alasdair Gray went on holiday with his family to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. He was 16, a pupil at Whitehill Senior Secondary School in Glasgow, brilliant at art and English but also an awkward boy, asthmatic and eczematous, happier in his head: ‘Had there been television I would have become an addict. In those days my greed for extravagant existences brought me to the local library, where I ate up all the existing stories and illustrations I could find.’ He was sitting on a rock brooding when he thought up ‘my first story which did not seem silly’, where a boy finds a star ‘the size of a glass marble’ on the midden behind the tenement where he lives. His teacher demands he hand it over, but the boy swallows it: ‘Teacher, classroom, world receded like a rocket into a warm, easy blackness leaving behind a trail of glorious stars.’ ‘The Star’ was published later that year in the Collins Magazine for Boys and Girls, encouraging the teenage author to begin planning his first novel, to feature ‘an asthmatic glum hero whose heroism and asthma derive from his being an extra-terrestrial agent sent down by a higher authority to save the world’. The name of the hero was to be Boreas Brown.