I’ve been to hear William McIlvanney before at Aye Write where he came across as charismatic and delivered moving readings. So when I saw that he was appearing at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling I jumped at the chance to see one of Scotland’s finest contemporary writers again.
The event was billed as, ‘The man who began it all ’ as McIlvanney is credited with being the man who created the ‘tartan noir’ genre and can lay claim to being the godfather of crime writing in Scotland.
McIlvanney is back on the publicity circuit since Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate relaunched the author’s Laidlaw trilogy after discovering his classic works were out of print. A surprise element of the event was when Jenny Brown, his new agent, announced that the Saltire Society was to award him with the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award for his long-standing contribution to Scottish literature. It was an added bonus to be in the audience for this news and to hear McIlvanney’s humble appreciation of this great honour.
One of the reasons why I admire McIlvanney and feel he deserves this award is that his working class roots are at the heart of his work which is something I aspire to do in my own writing. And yet I’m ashamed to say that I’ve yet to read any of his novels. I don’t normally read crime fiction but I must add Laidlaw to my mountainous To Be Read (TBR) pile.
Although at the event, it didn’t matter that I, or my best pal, Veronica hadn’t read any of his work yet as we both felt that we could’ve sat all day listening to McIlvanney’s quick-witted banter. His anecdotes of growing up in Kilmarnock are very funny and touching at the same time.
After reading an excerpt from Laidlaw, McIlvanney also treated us to a piece called Zooistry which you can find on his website which hosts a variety of essays on diverse topics under the banner of ‘Personal Dispatches’, described as a “haphazard record of experience, feeling and thought . . .” In Zooistry, his take on how our society’s relationship with pets has changed over the years touched a nerve with Veronica and I who both treat our dogs like family members rather than domestic animals and we laughed and cringed at the same time.
It might seem weird to rate McIlvanney as a writer I admire when I’ve never read any of his books. Have you been to see an author without reading their books? Do you feel guilty that you have writers on your TBR list who you feel you should’ve read years ago?