Wednesday, February 6, 2013

William McIlvanney in discussion with Ian Rankin

In a huge coup for the organisers of the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which just seems to go from strength to strength each year, the 2013 slate will see a rare appearance from the man Ian Rankin and many others credit as an inspiration for the rise and rise of contemporary 'Tartan Noir': acclaimed Scottish poet and novelist William McIlvanney.

McIlvanney has scooped several of the most prestigious awards in British writing over a long career, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for his debut, REMEDY IS NONE, the Whitbread Novel Award (now known as the Costa Book Awards), the Saltire Scottish Society Book of the Year Award, and a BAFTA for a screen adaptation of a short story.

Of particular note for crime fiction fans, McIlvanney also scooped two CWA Silver Daggers, for his novels starring unconventional Glaswegian detective Jack Laidlaw. The first in the short series, LAIDLAW (1977) is widely regarded as the first Tartan Noir novel, and involved the detective immersing himself in the darker side of his city in order to catch a brutal sex attacker. Ian Rankin is often praised for his evocation of the changing nature of Edinburgh in his Rebus novels, and McIlvanney lead the way on that front, delving into the seamy side of 1970-1980s Glasgow in his Laidlaw novels.

Several prominent Scottish authors, from Rankin to Val McDermid and Denise Mina to Irvine Welsh, all list McIlvanney as an influence. Down here in New Zealand we also have a link to McIlvanney, with his son Liam, himself the author of a terrific, layered and literary thriller, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN, teaching at the University of Otago (incidentally, keep an eye out for Liam McIlvanney's second thriller, which I understand is on the near horizon - watch this space).

William McIlvanney may not be quite as well-known amongst broader crime fiction audiences worldwide as other 'big names' that have attended Harrogate over the past decade, but he is a true icon of the genre, and the unique opportunity to see him in conversation with Ian Rankin "to talk about his life, work and influence on crime fiction" at this year's festival will be quite a treat for festival-goers.

In associated good news, LAIDLAW (1977), THE PAPERS OF TONY VEITCH (1983), and STRANGE LOYALTIES (1991) will be republished this year, giving new readers a chance "to catch up on the novels that inspired a genre". For more information on this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, including this event and other authors already confirmed for the 2013 line-up, see here.

Have you read any of the Laidlaw novels? Do you like (re)discovering older authors from the 1970s-1980s?

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