Walking in grandfather’s shoes

Robert Mailer Anderson and Tom Waits
Robert Mailer Anderson and Tom Waits

HE may have had US president Barack Obama round to his house for dinner and spent time with A-lister singer Tom Waits.

But best-selling American novelist Robert Mailer Anderson says a visit to Selkirk this summer will be one of his life’s highlights.

Mr Anderson is to be the 2013 Selkirk Colonial Society Standard Bearer and will arrive in the royal burgh in June with family and friends for his big day

He will carry the Colonial Society’s flag 100 years to the day after his great-grandfather, his namesake Robert Anderson, filled the role in 1913.

A native of San Francisco, Mr Anderson 45, came to major public notice with his critically acclaimed 2001 novel, Boonville, chronicling the antics of the residents of the small town of the same name.

He is well known for his love of noirish attire, and has rented and restored the apartment where Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon.

After his parents divorced, the young Anderson grew up along side the juvenile delinquent residents of the care home run by his father.

He spent his last high school year living with a paternal uncle who ran a foster home, as well as the Anderson Valley Advertiser newspaper, in the town of Boonville.

After dropping out of college, Mr Anderson moved to Mexico and then to New York where his jobs ranged from selling suits and telemarketing to shifting furniture.

His move back to the Bay Area of San Francisco preceded the publication of Boonville, his first novel and it has been followed by a screenplay bought by Miramax, development of a TV series, producing Tom Waits’ The Black Rider at American Conservatory Theater and co-writing the 2008 horror flick Pig 

His wife, Nicola, whom he married in 1999, is the daughter of the late Robert Miner, co-founder of the IT giant, Oracle.

The couple live in Pacific Heights with their four young children,and last year they opened their home for a $35,800-per-person fundraiser for President Obama.

Asked why he had felt it important to take part in an age-old ritual, in a small Scottish town thousands of miles from his home, Mr Anderson said he wanted to mark his links with Selkirk in what is a very special anniversary year.

He told us: “But that said, the contributing factors were the passing of my parents, especially my father who spoke fondly of his trips to Scotland, and the passing of my Aunt Phyllis, who was the keeper of the Scottish heritage flame,” Mr Anderson told The Southern from his home in the United States

“It all adds to the middle age millieu of wanting to feel something more substantial or at least that the motions of men are close to eternal, even if our flesh falls away.

“My sister took a visit with Phyllis long ago too, and she said it was amazing to ‘feel so Scottish suddenly’ and to be surrounded by ‘our people.’

“We are proud American mutts – also English, German, and Mexican – but it is the Scottish that pulls me most outside of California.

“I have never been to Selkirk, but my father had Burns’s Selkirk Grace up in our kitchen for many years and the poetry of the land calls to the writer in me.”

As well as his wife – his lady busser – and four children, Mr Anderson will also be accompanied by a posse of uncles, aunts and cousins.

He says he is excited at finally making it to Selkirk: “Breathing the air that my ancestors took into their lungs, getting the lay of the land, and letting my own offspring know that this is partly where they sprung from.”