IT WAS an atrociously bad snowstorm, the kind that lingers in the memory for years afterwards.

And it's one of the factors that inspired Campbell Hart to write and publish his debut novel, Wilderness.

The book opens with a coach getting stuck in a blizzard near Shotts, Lanarkshire.

The driver has disappeared. So, too, has a young girl who was on board the coach. A woman who had been accompanying the girl is found tethered to a WC, clad only in her underwear.

Campbell's story widens into a fast-paced tale of sexual abuse and a people-trafficking ring that operates in different countries.

"I used to work as a radio journalist in Lanarkshire," says the 40-year-old when asked how he came across the background to his book.

"This was a time when there were lots of stories in the papers about some people in Lanarkshire looking at adult websites on the internet.

"There were also stories in which paedophiles would be identified, and their houses would be targeted by mobs of people.

"There was one specific incident for the book, though. There was a bad snowstorm in February 2001. The police told me a bus had got stuck near Shotts Prison.

"It was caught in a snowdrift, so there was about 10ft of snow around it.

"Two of the prison guards could see the bus from where they were. They had a snowplough and tried to use it to get to the bus, but the snow was so deep they just couldn't reach it.

"They ended up digging their way to get to the bus.

"When they got there, the driver was there. There was a mother and her daughter there, too.

"The driver had given the girl his coat.

"They were stranded on the bus for 11 hours, but at least there was a happy ending for them. It was a great story for local radio."

And for the Evening Times, too.

A look back at our files shows the bus was stranded for 11 hours between Shotts and Hamilton.

The bus driver gave the girl his jacket and was left to shiver in his shirt-sleeves.

He and another driver, whose own, empty bus had earlier been caught in the whiteout, kept in regular contact with their Motherwell depot by mobile phone.

They used newspapers to prevent snow seeping through the doors and windows.

Their ordeal did not end until 6am when officers from nearby Shotts Prison reached them by using a tractor.

In the book, a farmer and his son struggle to reach the stranded coach, where they find the woman, blue with the cold.

Fittingly, the photograph on the book jacket - taken by Campbell - depicts a stark, black-and-white snowy landscape.

"The situation always stuck in my mind," says the author, who is now working in public relations . "What would happen if the guys got to the bus, and something had gone badly wrong?

"The book starts with the same premise. The driver and the little girl are gone, and the woman is found handcuffed on the bus.

"Naturally, there are a lot of assumptions about what has happened to the girl.

"A nationwide hunt for her gets under way, and mention is made of a suspected paedophile.

"In time, it emerges that what has happened to the girl is tied to something much bigger than people had generally assumed.

"At the start, my story was just going to be about the bus, but it gradually expanded into a people-trafficking story, with organised crime in Turkey and with links to Scotland."

Campbell is planning a trilogy of books, linked to the same character but with different themes.

"Like lots of others, I have been reading a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction.

"A lot has the same theme: that we have an idea of the region as a socialist utopia, but the stories are all about the underbelly of those countries.

"In Scotland - and this year, particularly - we are being told we are living in a country that could almost be that Utopia if we took the step towards it.

"It is almost the opposite, but no-one is writing about it just now. I am interested in the dynamic of how you sell that idea to a country. Wilderness sets the scene for it.

"I wanted to write about more than just another stabbing in Glasgow."

Wilderness also introduces readers to the latest fictional Glasgow detective: Detective Inspector John Arbogast, newly freed from the confines of the murder squad and now part of Strathclyde's Major Crime and Anti-Terrorism Unit.

He celebrates his promotion, however, by drunkenly visiting an exotic bar named Devil May Care.

Despite such an unpromising start, Arbogast will return in the next book, called The Nationalist.

l Wilderness is available on Amazon and in book form.