Saturday, September 22, 2018

McIlvanney Squared: New Zealand-based Liam McIlvanney wins Scottish Crime Novel of the Year

Liam McIlvanney wins the prize named
after his father (cr: Wendy Marie)
It was an emotional moment at Bloody Scotland on Friday night as New Zealand-based writer Liam McIlvanney was named the winner of this year's McIlvanney Prize, named for his father William, the 'godfather of Tartan Noir'. 

Liam McIlvanney won the 2018 prize for the best Scottish crime novel for THE QUAKER, his novel inspired by the still-unsolved 'Bible John' killings that terrorised late 1960s Glasgow. When it was shortlisted, the judging panel had called THE QUAKER:
"A tale that's superbly evocative of Glasgow in the 1960s, bringing a frightened city to vivid life. In a crowded market McIlvanney has created a protagonist who is fresh and distinctive. He takes some familiar crime fiction tropes and made them extraordinary."
McIlvanney, a professor of literature and Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, was crowned the winner at the Gala Opening of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival at the centuries-old Church of the Holy Rude in historic Stirling.

Backlit by stained-glass windows and in a space that had seen the coronation of James VI more than 450 years ago, a packed house of festival-goers and dignitaries had waited to see which of an outstanding group of finalists (Lin Anderson for FOLLOW THE DEAD, Christopher Brookmyre for PLACES IN THE DARKNESS, Charles Cumming for THE MAN BETWEEN, and McIlvanney for THE QUAKER) would be named this year's winner and receive the prize from Denise Mina.

Chair of Judges Craig Sisterson saluted all four of the finalists while pointing to the breadth and depth of modern Scottish crime writing, a flourishing tree that's grown from roots laid down by the likes of William McIlvanney. The judges, which included comedian Susan Calman and The Guardian books reviewer Alison Flood, had not only really enjoyed the finalists' tales, but really liked many other books on the longlist and beyond. Scottish crime writing is in rude health.

Calman said of THE QUAKER:
"The Quaker was, for me, the stand out book from the longlist. It’s one of those novels that as soon as I finished it, I looked forward to reading it again. Not only did I love the evocative recreation of Glasgow but the characters created were refreshing and surprising. It was such a pleasure to read."
On the book's launch earlier this year, McIlvanney told the New Zealand Herald that he always knew he wanted to write about the Bible John case, ever since he was a boy growing up in Ayrshire.

"The Bible John murders were a kind of West of Scotland equivalent of the Kennedy assassination," said McIlvanney, who was born just outside of Glasgow at the time of the investigation. "They seemed to crystallise something about that time and place."

Denise Mina, winner of the McIlvanney Prize last year, handed over the engraved decanter and a cheque for £1,000. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing and includes nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

Following the ceremony guests formed a torchlight procession through the streets of Stirling led by Val McDermid, Denise Mina and Liam McIlvanney - winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2018.

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