The Stillman


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Jim Drever is a man apart. Twenty years a Stillman at a Highland distillery, his closest relationship is with the machinery he monitors, the movies he’s obsessed with. It’s the worst winter in years and the world is closing in. A strike is looming and his daughter is about to get married. His son’s ever-weirder behaviour is becoming a worry and his marriage has disintegrated into savage skirmishes with a wife he barely knows. Then the emails start to arrive from Cuba, sending him letters from his dead mother, and Jim can’t stay on the sidelines any longer.

Opening Lines

It all begins with death, it all ends with death.  The crow lies on the low concrete wall outside warehouse 21.  The beak is slightly open and bright blood spatters the snow, guts grey and spilling.  Siberia’s gale has momentarily dropped to a stabbing breeze.  The oily feathers barely move.  In an hour or two they’ll be frozen.  I bend closer, studying the scene, like a TV detective.  There’s no surrounding tracks or marks.   Did the crow just fall out of the sky?  It must’ve been some height to splatter viscera like that.


‘How do the pieces of a life fit together? This is the key question that protagonist Jim Drever has to answer as he negotiates family dysfunction, workplace rivalries and emotional journeys. In The Stillman Tom McCulloch chronicles lives veering between sourness and cynicism, energy and optimism, and does so with acute observation and wickedly black humour.’ James Robertson, author of The Testament of Gideon Mack.

‘A powerful depiction of a man struggling to come to terms with his past and to live in his present.’ The Herald.

‘Tom McCulloch’s powerful debut novel.’ Booktrust.

‘A dark, compelling read, Tom McCulloch’s The Stillman is perfect for a cold, lonely evening when you’re not quite sure where your life is going.  This is a funny, emotional work. With the gallows humour… and plenty of quotable passages on the damage life does to us, The Stillman is well worth reading.’ Buzz Magazine, Edinburgh.

‘Beautifully and sensitively written with a convincing ending that startles and satisfies.’ Alison Napier, Northwords Now.

‘McCulloch offers a convincing insight into what it is to be Scottish indeed what it is to be a human being while building a thoroughly absorbing story which flits back effortlessly between the Highlands and Cuba. Often poetic and with generous dashes of black humour, The Stillman builds satisfyingly towards an ending that keeps you guessing until the last page.’ What’s On North.

‘Fascinating to read . . . a great tale with plenty of black humour thrown in for good measure.’ The Scottish Field.

‘The Stillman is as memorable as it is entertaining.’ Midwest Book Review.

Amazon ‘Rising Star”!

Amazon selected The Stillman as a top title to read for 2014.  Amazon Rising Stars supported debut novelists and The Stillman was one of twelve titles showcased throughout the year on Amazon’s Rising Stars pages and social media sites.

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