It was in the bar of King Tut's Wah Wah Hut on Glasgow's St Vincent Street that Colin MacIntyre first heard that his debut Rough Trade label single as Mull Historical Society, Barcode Bypass, was being played on BBC Radio 1, when venue promoter Dave McGeechan hurtled downstairs with the news.


So it was appropriately in that basement howff, with a gig that evening looming, that MacIntyre and I met, his recording debut now 15 years ago, and his debut novel between us on the table.

He has just played in MacGochans pub in Tobermory on the island where he was raised, on a tour that is combining the launch of the book with promotion of a "Best of" collection of his recordings that stretches all the way from that first single to a new song, Keep Falling. It opens with the field recording of the public service announcement on the CalMac ferry that featured on his first album, Loss, and concludes with the words of Tony Benn, with whom he has also worked.

MacIntyre reckons a first novel is much like a first album in that everything you have done up until then goes into it, but dates the genesis of The Letters Of Ivor Punch to the moment, on a flight, when he discovered Ivor's voice.

"I felt slightly possessed. I'd written short stories and I wanted to go longer, and I heard this old man writing to President of the USA. He's from the Hebrides and he considers himself Obama's equal. Why is that?"

As MacIntyre unfolded the story of the island's former Police Sergeant, he wrapped in research he had been doing into the Lockerbie air crash, the question of Loss being a Mull Historical Society theme and the title of the first album, recorded shortly after the death of his father, BBC Scotland journalist Kenny MacIntyre. The unnamed Hebridean island of the novel also embraces versions of other stories with origins on Mull.

"Over the last couple of years it started to form. I was also interested in my own journey. I live in London at the moment, having spent a lot of time in America, and my wife Pam is from New York, so the Atlantic became a character. Ultimately it is about what home means to you and how it travels with you.

"The novel was an opportunity to write about some of the people I grew up around and heard about when I was a kid. But it felt as if it comes from the same place as the music. Time stands still when I'm creating - hours disappear and I get lost in it."

There is some obvious crossover with the musical back catalogue for fans to spot. The opening chapter, Out Stealing Firs, echoes the song Tree Scavengers in referencing the Mull source of Christmas trees in local forestry, and a spectral character in another chapter, The Looming, quotes from The Long Road To Me, a song on Island, the album MacIntyre made at An Tobar in Tobermory.

"I can't leave that bloody island, no matter how I try to," confesses the writer, although he admits that previous day's visit had been so brief and busy to be a little odd. "Because there I am still regarded as Kenny's son, John's grandson, Angus's grandson, and Lorn's nephew."

Famously, the chart-bothering years of MacIntyre caused some bother at home with his choice of band name, the local Historical Society adding "and Archeological" to its name to avoid confusion. Nowadays he sees Mull Historical Society as one of his musical identities and Colin MacIntyre as his story and book writing name, and was delighted to hear that a hitchhiker from the Craignure ferry terminal to the MacGochan's gig had been given a lift by a couple who were members of the island heritage association. "Both bodies are now co-operating," he jokes, "and as they appear in the novel, let's hope that continues."

With another musical identity as INK, in which his collaborators include Dom Morley, Grammy-garlanded for his work with Mark Ronson on Amy Whitehouse's Back To Black, MacIntyre is still building his own history. The coming year will see new albums both under that alias and as Mull Historical Society. Then there is that difficult second novel for him to get his teeth into . . .

The Letters Of Ivor Punch by Colin MacIntyre is published by Orion/Weidenfeld & Nicolson; The Best Of Mull Historical Society is on Xtra Mile Recordings