A FORMER Lornshill Academy pupil has written a book detailing the relationship between authors JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson, as gleamed through unpublished letters.

Dr Michael Shaw, who was born in Tullibody and attended Abercromby primary school and Lornshill Academy, has written A Friendship in Letters about the two-year correspondence between the authors from 1892 to Stevenson's death in 1894.

Michael, a Scottish literature lecturer at Stirling University, says he "fell in love" with Robert Louis Stevenson in his second year at Lornshill after reading Treasure Island. He then studied English at Higher and Advanced Higher level before going to Glasgow for university.

While undertaking some research at Beinecke Library in Yale University, Michael came across the letters.

He said: "I wasn't even looking for them, I was looking for other things. I had a bit of time on my hands so I ordered some material, started reading [the letters], fell in love with them and it was only over time that I realised they hadn't been published before.

"When I first saw them I didn't realise they hadn't been published, so there wasn't that kind of euphoria but nonetheless when I was reading through them I was struck by how affectionate they were.

"I was struck by how long they were, some were almost 3,000 words long. They could [also] be really quite jesting and funny with each other.

"It was just a joy of reading through their work."

There are only 16 letters as Stevenson was living in Samoa at the time and Barrie was either in Kirriemuir or London so the letters took up to six weeks to reach the other person.

Michael feels that fans of the two authors will recognise little references in their letters.

"Stevenson dies when they're around two years into their correspondence and Barrie is frustrated and upset by this and I think he tries to commemorate the friendship in as many ways as he can," Michael added.

"Directly after he dies, Barrie writes a poem called Scotland's Lament, and in that poem there's a few very subtle references back to the correspondence which tells me he's not just memorialising Stevenson, part of it is memorialising the friendship."

Shaw explains how Barrie told Stevenson he based a character from Sentimental Tommy on Stevenson, while although the correspondence doesn't influence Peter Pan, Shaw thinks their relationship does.

He wonders if the character Tiger Lily, from Barrie's Peter Pan, is a reference to Stevenson's wife Fanny Stevenson, whom he nicknamed Tigerlily as that was her favourite flower.

While Stevenson's letters have been published before, Barrie's side never has. Michael hopes they show the author in a new light.

Michael adds: "There's different understandings of who Barrie was; some see him as quite troubled, some see him as reserved.

"I think these letters underscore just how playful, fun and affectionate he was. I hope they make Barrie a more inviting figure."