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McIlvanney, William

laidlaw novels scottish moral

(British, 1936– )

A Scottish teacher and poet, William McIlvanney's first crime novel, Laidlaw (1977), won the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger. He had already achieved a strong reputation in mainstream writing, winning the Whitbread award in 1975 for Docherty, a son's view of his father's courage and endurance during the depression. Laidlawis a dark and realistic yarn set in Glasgow, about a private eye whose rough exterior belies his own inner moral certitude and who toils in a world of grey uncertainties. Jack Laidlaw reappeared in The Papers of Tony Veitch (1983) and Strange Loyalties (1991). Both novels display powerful portraits of machismo undone and vivid descriptions of the Scottish underworld. The Big Man (1985) mines a similar social realist vein in its portrayal of a directionless man hired as a fighter by an underworld boss and the ensuing moral dilemmas and crumbling of his marriage. Some minor characters from the Laidlaw novels appear in The Big Man.

Ian Rankin, John Harvey, James Kelman  MJ

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