Laidlaw (Laidlaw Trilogy)

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Laidlaw (Laidlaw Trilogy)

Laidlaw (Laidlaw Trilogy)

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Laidlaw" is an amazing feat of writing from first to last. It's not a conventional mystery -- we know who the killer is right from the first chapter, when McIlvanney describes how odd it is to be running through the streets with blood on you. Laidlaw was the character that helped McIlvanney establish himself as the genius who defined the tartan noir genre. Through his Laidlaw character, McIlvanney infused his knowledge of Glasgow and it’s old-school cultural misogyny, class angst, rugged masculinity, and an environment that is decaying by the hour to create the dark- noir-theme novels that became hugely popular. The technique of indirect presentation works very well, with the aided bonus of also easing the reader into the more unsavoury elements of Glasgow criminal gangs ('tearaways' in the local jargon). There are several more changes in the point of view, done in an unobtrusive and convincing way, mostly fleshing out secondary characters like the girl's abusive father, the mentally unbalanced killer, several bosses and underlings of what looks to me a criminal structure almost as well organized as the infamous Mob. Rankin himself said that It's doubtful I would be a crime writer without the influence of McIlvanney's Laidlaw. There are so many stories within a story, showing that what gives crime its complexity usually isn't some super-clever criminal or incredibly shrewd investigator. The complexity comes from all the people--on both sides--each with their web of talents and problems.

It's doubtful I would be a crime writer without the influence of McIlvanney's Laidlaw." - Ian Rankin The book took me a while to read because very little of it is done in dialogue, and what dialogue there is is often written using Glaswegian dialect, which can be hard to interpret. It took me about half the book to figure out that when someone says, "What's the gemme?" they meant "what's the game?" as in "What are you up to?" Set in the late 1970s, this is the Glasgow of my youth and I found it reeked of authenticity. The language, the attitudes, the hard-drinking culture centred around the city’s pubs, the humour and bravado that defended against the ever-present threat of violence – all more extreme in the book (since I didn’t mingle too much with the underworld!) but all very recognisable. And, sad to say, the sectarianism and homophobia were as present in the real world as in the book.* William McIlvanney was a Scottish writer of novels, short stories, and poetry. He was 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 has been described as "Scotland's Camus".


The crime in Laidlaw is the murder of a young girl who disappeared after going to the disco one evening. Her family and friends are questioned by the "polis.". Several Glasgow hard men are suspects, as well, and the reader is introduced them and their machinations. (Be aware that there is a certain amount of vividly described violence here.) First published in 1977, does Laidlaw stand up? In short, yes. There's no mystery. We know who the identity of the killer pretty much from the off. The killer is in hiding and pursued by various vengeful pursuers. The question is who will find him first? The police, or one of the others. Mr. McIlvanney was a well established, prize winning literary author when he set to crime writing and gave us Inspector Laidlaw in 1977. Laidlaw was the first in a trilogy with the story set in early 1970’s.

The battle for convoy ONS 5 in May 1943 was extra stressful for her, as her then-fiancé John Lamb was first lieutenant of the escort destroyer HMS Oribi, tasked with employing Jean Laidlaw and Gilbert Roberts’ tactics. McIlvanney shifts our viewpoint from chapter to chapter, sometimes telling it from the viewpoint of the young copper who's been assigned to assist Laidlaw and sometimes from the viewpoint of minor characters, like a wannabe gangster who winds up in waaaaay over his head and pays dearly for that mistake. The psychological insights that McIlvanney brings to these POV shifts tend to be astonishing, particularly one chapter that takes the viewpoint of a brutal, yet oddly principled gangster whom Laidlaw treats as an equal if not a friend (shades of Rankin's own character Morris "Big Ger" Cafferty). Another one, which takes the POV of a character who's openly homosexual, seems way ahead of its time. There are numerous excellent set pieces. One cop/criminal hard man scene in a dodgy pub in the East End of Glasgow has strong echoes of that classic De Niro and Pacino restaurant scene in Michael Mann's Heat despite this novel obviously predating that film. It's a carefully choreographed dance with the rules changing as it happens and the realisation that the men have more in common than may first appear, and a grudging mutual respect. Jaw droppingly good. Laidlaw shares some similarities with Derek Raymond's Factory novels. It's still fresh despite depicting the dark days of the late 1970s. Naturally some of it is anachronistic and of its time, but it's also timeless too. Think Raymond Chandler or Georges Simenon at their very best and you get the idea. I'm going to have to finish the trilogy now, and look forward to The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties.So for the U-boats to be so accurate in their aim, they had to be already inside the convoy. But how were they getting there? It was a welcome change from some of the not so great mystery novels I’ve read lately, and it broke from some of the more formulaic cliches that the genre has a tendency to deliver. This story is equally hard, edgy and full of angst. Paddy Collins is in hospital, having been stabbed. He was supposed to meet a man at the train station who’s on a mission. Perhaps the weakest character in the book is Laidlaw himself, who hides books by Camus and other philosophers in his desk drawer, cheats on his wife and then discusses his guilt with his mistress, who calls him "John Knox." Still, he's got an interesting viewpoint on both his city and on crime itself, and that kept me going. At one point, he observes, ‘Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice?’ and then supplies the answer, ‘It’s what we have because we can’t have justice.’

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
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