John and Gideon become good friends while at university. Their friendship lasts for around 25 years, with Gideon eventually becoming a Godparent to the two daughters that John has with Elsie.
The Moffats live nearby and Gideon regularly visits. He is warmly welcomed into their home and is treated like a family member. John is also very supportive and comforting to Gideon when Jenny dies.
John starts out as an idealistic character. But as he gets older this idealism seems to lead to disappointment and cynicism:
Nobody feels, nobody cares any more. There are no causes left.
However, by the time of Gideon’s disappearance, their friendship had been completely destroyed. Gideon had betrayed John by having an affair with Elsie a few months after the death of Jenny, but he manages to keep this a secret from him for over ten years. Their friendship ends in acrimonious circumstances when Gideon publicly reveals the affair at Catherine Craigie’s funeral.
John comes to hate his former friend and refuses to believe that Gideon was telling the truth about the affair. He is convinced that Gideon’s manuscript was a
pack of lies and a
total fantasy and that he invented the affair as he
wanted to hurt him and Elsie and
ruin our lives.
Walker is a book publisher from Edinburgh. In October 2004, he receives the manuscript written by Gideon Mack from Harry Caithness.
After reading the manuscript carefully a number of times, doing some research into Mack’s life and disappearance, and asking Caithness to interview the people who knew Mack, he decides to publish the manuscript.
The Prologue and the Epilogue detail his thoughts and reflections on the manuscript, which he doubts can be:
anything other than the ramblings of a mind terminally damaged
Caithness is a freelance journalist. He is given a copy of Gideon Mack’s manuscript while at a police station in Inverness in October 2004.
After reading it, he sends a copy to his friend, Patrick Walker and persuades him to publish it due to its fascinating content. Before publishing, Walker asks him to travel to Monimaskit in January 2005 to interview the people that knew Gideon and to try to verify his story.
Caithness’s report makes up the majority of the Epilogue. Through his direct questioning of a number of characters, we get a very different insight into Gideon's character and the events of the story. Caithness plays a key part in raising questions about truth and honesty.
Winnyford is an English artist whose
work explores myths and legends. He is commissioned to organise a museum exhibition based upon the local history of Monimaskit. He asks Gideon to record an extract from
The Legend of the Black Jaws as part of this.
After his accident, Gideon asks Winnyford to bear witness to and make a recording of his account of what happened during the three days he was missing in the Black Jaws. Gideon does this so that Winnyford can:
testify that what you heard…came from the mouth of a sane human being, not some gibbering lunatic