A review of Canongate’s William McIlvanney Event
by Sally Pattle
One of the perks of being in the bookselling business is that you sometimes get invited to trade events. One such event was held on Thursday 28th February in Edinburgh’s Summerhall when Canongate Books invited people to hear William McIlvanney read from his seminal work Laidlaw.
As a massive fan of the Big Man since reading Docherty at school (many years ago!), I was hooked when I first discovered the Laidlaw trilogy. McIlvanney’s gritty, realist style deservedly earned him the title of the father of Tartan Noir, and writers including Christopher Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Stuart MacBride and Ian Rankin all cite him as an influence; his work is even thought to have been the inspiration behind Glasgow’s best export: Taggart. McIlvanney himself says he drew on the work of Camus; on learning this the similarities become clear.
So it was with real excitement that I learned Canongate are republishing the trilogy this year: Laidlaw in May, and the other two books, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties will follow in the summer.
The event at Summerhall was predictably full, and after a question and answer session chaired by Doug Johnstone, we were treated to the silky tones of Mr. McIlvanney reading some of his favourite parts from Laidlaw. Without being too gushing, he looked great and was as elegant and eloquent as I could have hoped. Personally, I could have listened for hours – there’s nothing like hearing an author reading their own work, you can feel the characters coming to life as they were intended to be.
And to cap it all, a couple of revelations – an audio version of all three books is in the pipeline, for the first time read by Willie himself. And possibly even more exciting, a prequel may be in the works (though this may take some time to appear…)
Interest Scottish Crime Fiction is currently at an all-time high, so it is apt that the man who reinvented the genre is being brought to a new audience by Canongate. The Big Man returns? I’m not sure he ever went away.