Thursday, 1 November 2012

WILLIAM McILVANNEY - LAIDLAW


Blurb.......TURN DOWN A GLASWEGIAN WHEN HE OFFERS YOU A DRINK, AND HE’LL BREAK YOUR LEGS..

Jack Laidlaw is no ordinary detective. But then Glasgow is no ordinary city. His methods are unorthodox. Some would say dangerously unorthodox.

There’s nothing tidy or polite about him because there’s nothing tidy or polite about his world. But he knows the city in all its moods; sometimes he seems to know it better than he knows himself.

But when he’s given the job of hunting down the brutal killer of a young girl, Laidlaw begins to wonder. Because as the manhunt gathers pace it seems to him that the city is taking him deeper and deeper into its violent pulsing heart.....

I sought out this book after reading several pieces about it on the net and following it with some reviews from Amazon. Originally published in 1977, it won the CWA Silver Dagger Award, and has been tagged as the first novel of the Tartan Noir genre.

McIlvanney wrote two further novels with Laidlaw as the lead detective.


The investigation has Laidlaw at odds with the detective leading the team, with his unorthodox approach exposing Glasgow’s underbelly of seedy pubs and petty criminals. Laidlaw competes with local vigilantes to try and capture the killer before street justice is dispensed.

McIlvanney’s characters slip into the vernacular of Scottish speech, often enough to flavour the book, without rendering the exchanges incomprehensible, something I’ve found when I tried reading James Kelman.

70’s Glasgow, with Laidlaw, its bigots and lowlifes is well worth a visit. McIlvanney’s Laidlaw is definitely someone I will be reading more of in the future.

As an aside, McIlvanney contemplated action against the producers of Taggart, but didn’t pursue it as he was advised it would be difficult to prove comprehensively that they “stole” his man.

The books are being reprinted next year by Canongate. If you can’t wait you may have to settle for an old tatty dog-eared paperback like me. Mine came from the Green Metropolis website.

Verdict 4 out of 5.

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