the cover of the novel A TRUTH LOVER by John Herdman shows a painting of a young man beside a bar on which there is a broken glass with a spot of blood upon it


As witness to a violent act, a young man enters a brooding vacuum of self-reflection from which there may be no logical escape.

Living as an outsider, but functionally ingratiate to normal social circles, Duncan has his morality rocked by bearing witness to a violent act. Where can one land on judgement of abject behaviour when inflicted upon a person, perhaps more abject than the act itself?

Pressure to testify in court pushes Duncan into various forms of escapism and a consequential number of captivating encounters. 

Herdman’s writerly magic is an underappreciated facet of Scotland’s continually great literary output.

Drawing from the Gothic traditions of Hogg and Stevenson, and the existentialism most finely explored in Dostoevsky, Herdman evokes complicatedly moralising characters to haunting effect.


"John Herdman's impressive first novel, A Truth Lover, is written as though it had been very well translated from the nineteenth-century Russian ... Mr Herdman and his book are much too good to be localised."
P.J. Kavanagh, The Guardian

"Both brilliant and very moving indeed ... If there is to be any vigorous tradition of novel writing in Scotland then this is the kind of book which will open up that prospect."
Archie Hind, The Glasgow Herald

".... a very fine piece of imaginative writing .... This unusual novel whets one's interest in a new and most promising talent in the Scottish literary scene."
Cuthbert Graham, Press & Journal

"I find A Truth Lover the most impressive debut by a Scottish novelist for years."
Douglas Eadie, Scottish International


First published in 1973. Republished by Leamington Books


Manuscripts Division inventory of papers deposited by John Herdman in the National Library of Scotland

  • ISBN: 9781914090813