Saturday, July 25, 2015

William McIlvanney: The Father Of Tartan Noir

Allan Massie in the Wall Street Journal looks back at William McIlvanney's Scottish classic crime novels.

Crime and Scotland go together, fictionally at least. Set aside J.K. Rowling, and the leading, certainly the most popular, Scottish novelists today are crime-writers, with Ian Rankin and Denise Mina only two of those who show us how nefarious activity permeates society. Most genre writers are prolific, a novel a year or every 18 months being normal. There is one notable exception over here, and it’s the man who is widely regarded as the father of “Tartan Noir”: William McIlvanney. He has written only three crime novels, “Laidlaw” (1977), “The Papers of Tony Veitch” (1983) and “Strange Loyalties” (1991), all featuring Glasgow policeman Jack Laidlaw. If three novels seem a narrow foundation for such a reputation, we might remember that Raymond Chandler wrote only half a dozen. Now, after some years out of print, leading a shadowy life in popular memory, the Laidlaw novels are available in handsome editions from Europa Press.   

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