William McIlvanney

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William Angus McIlvanney
William McIlvanney at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013.jpg
William McIlvanney at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013
Born (1936-11-25) November 25, 1936 (age 79)
Kilmarnock, Scotland
Education University of Glasgow
Notable works Docherty (1975), Laidlaw (1977), Strange Loyalties (1991)

William McIlvanney (born 25 November 1936)[1] is a Scottish writer of novels, short stories, and poetry.[2] McIlvanney is a champion of gritty yet poetic literature; his works Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch, and Walking Wounded are all known for their portrayal of Glasgow in the 1970s. He is regarded as "the father of 'Tartan Noir’" and Scotland's Camus.[3]


McIlvanney was born in the town of Kilmarnock, the youngest of four children of a former miner, and attended school at Kilmarnock Academy. He went on to study English at the University of Glasgow and graduated MA in 1960.[2] McIlvanney then worked as an English teacher until 1975, when he left the position of assistant headmaster to pursue his writing career.[2]

The writer's brother is the sports journalist Hugh McIlvanney.[2]

In addition to his writing, McIlvanney has pursued a number of other interests: he is known for his work as a writer and narrator of a number of films including the BBC Scotland football documentary Only a Game? in 1986.[4]


His first book, Remedy is None, was published in 1966[5] and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1967.[6] Docherty (1975), a moving portrait of a miner whose courage and endurance is tested during the depression, won the Whitbread Novel Award.[7]

The Big Man (1985), is the story of Dan Scoular, an unemployed man who turns to bare-knuckle fighting to make a living. Both novels feature typical McIlvanney characters - tough, often violent, men locked in a struggle with their own nature and background.[8] The novel was adapted into a film in 1990 by David Leland, starred Liam Neeson, and featured Billy Connolly.[9]

His novel, The Kiln (1996), is the story of Tam Docherty, the grandson of the hero of Docherty. It won the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.[10]

Laidlaw (1977), The Papers of Tony Veitch (1983) and Strange Loyalties (1991) are crime novels featuring Inspector Jack Laidlaw. Laidlaw is considered to be the first book of Tartan Noir, despite the author calling the term Tartan Noire[11]

William McIlvanney is also an acclaimed poet, and is the author of The Longships in Harbour: Poems (1970) and Surviving the Shipwreck (1991), which also contains pieces of journalism, including an essay about T. S. Eliot.[12] McIlvanney wrote a screenplay based on his short story "Dreaming" (published in Walking Wounded in 1989) which was filmed by BBC Scotland in 1990 and won a BAFTA.[13]

Since April 2013, McIlvanney's writing is regularly published on his own website personaldispatches.com, which features personal, reflective and topical writing, as well as examples of his journalism.[14]

Prizes and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "William McIlvanney" in Contemporary Authors Online, Gale Thomson, entry updated 4/23/2001.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Scotland's Writers - William McIlvanney". BBC Writing Scotland. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Massie, Allan. "Scotland's master of crime is also its Camus". 25 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Only a game?". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Morton, Brian (27 September 1990). "Glasgow no mean Hamlet". The Times. 
  6. ^ a b Taylor, D J (28 January 1989). "Fist-fights and metaphors from Kilmarnock: D J Taylor on William McIlvaney, a Scottish storyteller launching guerrilla attacks from the front line". The Independent. 
  7. ^ Williams, John (3 September 1991). "Jack of all genres, master of one - William McIlvanney's new detective novel continues his seamless document of Scotland". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ Bailey, Hilary (5 September 1985). "A matter of manner/ Review of new fiction". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ Brown, Geoff (21 August 1990). "Youth hogs the old spotlight". The Times. 
  10. ^ a b Cochrane, Lynn (28 November 1996). "The Kiln is named book of the year". The Scotsman. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Stuart (27 August 2006). "A writer's life: William McIlvanney". The Telegraph. 
  12. ^ Duncan, Lesley (1 May 1999). "Cherishing the kitten". The Herald (Glasgow). 
  13. ^ a b McGinty, Stephen (21 March 2010). "Big Man hits the small screen as writer turns actor in music video". Scotland on Sunday. 
  14. ^ Mclaughlin, Martyn (11 August 2013). "McIlvanney work-in-progress on Connery goes online". The Scotsman. 
  15. ^ Dening, Penelope (1 October 1996). "Honour in his own country". The Irish Times. 
  16. ^ a b "The CWA Gold Dagger". The Crime Writers' Association. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Linklater, John (17 December 1992). "Readers stay loyal to McIlvanney with second win in People's Prize". The Herald (Glasgow). 
  18. ^ Linklater, John (4 June 1992). "Awards and votes of confidence for authors". The Herald (Glasgow). 
  19. ^ "William McIlvanney to receive the Fletcher of Saltoun Award 2013". Saltire Society. 
  20. ^ Ferguson, Brian (30 November 2013). "Rediscovered William McIlvanney picks up award". The Scotsman. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

References to reviews of work[edit]

  • [1] McLuckie, Craig. Researching McIlvanney. A Critical and Bibliographic Introduction',' 'Scottish Studies International' 28 (Scottish Studies Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germersheim), 1999.
  • Newton, Ken. "William McIlvanney": Literary Encyclopedia
  • William McIlvanney at British Council: Literature
  • [2] McLuckie, Craig. "Postcolonial Resistance: Class, Gender and Race in McIlvanney's The Big Man," Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (RCEI) 2002; 45: 151-67.
  • [3] McLuckie, Craig. "William McIlvanney and the Provocative Witness: Resistance in the 'Laidlaw' Trilogy," Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (RCEI) 2000 Nov; 41: 87-101.