Gala double date for Oliver and Dawkins

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It might not seem like it, but the whole world does not come to Melrose in the middle of June for the Borders Book Festival.

Inexplicably, some writers are doing other things. And so to forestall all sorts of disappointments, the festival’s organisers started Borders Book Festival on Tour.

Last October, they brought Michael Palin and Sheila Hancock for sell-out events at the Tait Hall in Kelso and on Thursday, September 17, two more stars are invited to the Borders to talk about their new books.

Neil Oliver and Richard Dawkins are the double bill for the Volunteer Hall in Galashiels.

Starting at 6.45pm, it will be an evening of high contrast and huge interest. Oliver’s brilliance as a historian has prompted him to make a superb choice for his debut historical novel.

In May 1453, the vast armies of the Sultan Mehmed II massed below the land walls of Constantinople, and in the epic siege that followed, the last bastion of the fading Roman Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks.

In ‘Master of Shadows’, Oliver brings his hero, John Grant, across Europe from the Borders of Scotland to take part in this epoch-making shift of power.

His life and fate become entangled with a Byzantine prince and a mysterious woman who has spent half of her life in hiding. This is a superb novel, and perfect reading for Christmas.

Dawkins catapulted to fame in 1976 with the publication of his epoch-changing ‘The Selfish Gene’ and it established him as one of the most brilliant young scientists of his generation. Since then, his directness and intellectual rigour have repeatedly stirred controversy. ‘The God Delusion’ made him the world’s most outspoken atheist.

He comes to Galashiels to talk about the second and final part of his memoirs, ‘Brief Candle in the Dark’. It deals with 25 years’ teaching and research at Oxford University, and his involvement with some of the world’s greatest scientists.

Funny, challenging and characteristically uncompromising, this memoir recounts the twist and turns of a remarkable life. His ideas about science and religion are fascinating – but the story of the man who produced them is absolutely absorbing.

Oliver’s event takes place 6.45-7.45pm, with Dawkins on from 8.30-9.30pm. Both events will be followed by a book signing.

Tickets cost £14 per event, but only £25 when booking tickets for both at the same time.

Tickets can be booked online via www.bordersbookfestival.org anytime or by calling Ticket Source direct on 0333 666 3366. Box office phone lines are open Monday-Friday (9am-7pm) and Saturday (9am-5pm). There is a £1.50 charge for using the Ticket Source telephone box office service.