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William McIlvanney (William Angus McIlvanney) Biography

(1936– ), (William Angus McIlvanney), Remedy is None, A Gift from Nessus, Docherty, The Big Man

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Harriet Martineau Biography to John McTaggart (John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart) Biography

Scottish novelist and poet, born in Kilmarnock, the son of a miner; he attended Glasgow University and became an English teacher before taking up creative writing fellowships in Scotland and overseas. McIlvanney's novels often feature ‘hard men’ who have to reckon with the tensions of their working-class inheritance, as well as their own violence, in order to define a sense of integrity. Such themes, suggested in Remedy is None (1966) and A Gift from Nessus (1968), received authoritative development in Docherty (1975), focusing on a miner's courage and endurance during the Depression years, as seen by his son. His best-known book is The Big Man (1985; later made into a film), in which Dan Scoular, an unemployed family man living in a decaying pit community, is offered the challenge of making money in bare-knuckle fights. McIlvanney has also produced several volumes of poetry, movingly elegizing the victims of famine and the Depression in The Longships in Harbour (1970), plus the award-winning crime thrillers Laidlaw (1977) and The Papers of Tony Veitch (1983). In its incisive portrayal of Scottish working-class masculinity, his work has some affinities with that of James Kelman. McIlvanney's other publications include a book of short stories, Walking Wounded (1989); a collection of journalism, Surviving the Shipwreck (1991); and a novel, Strange Loyalties (1991).

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