McIlvanney at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013
|Born||William Angus McIlvanney|
25 November 1936
|Died||5 December 2015 (aged 79)|
|Education||University of Glasgow|
|Notable works||Docherty (1975), Laidlaw (1977), Strange Loyalties (1991)|
|Relatives||Liam McIlvanney (son)|
William McIlvanney (25 November 1936 - 5 December 2015) was a Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet. He was known as Gus by friends and acquaintances. McIlvanney 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 as Scotland's Camus.
McIlvanney was born in Kilmarnock on 25 November 1936, 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 with an MA in 1960. McIlvanney then worked as an English teacher until 1975, when he left the position of assistant headmaster at Greenwood Academy to pursue his writing career. The writer's elder brother was the sports journalist Hugh McIlvanney. His son, Liam McIlvanney, is also a crime writer.
McIlvanney held onto his strong socialist views throughout his life. In common with many from his background in Scotland, he was strongly opposed to Thatcherism. Later he became disappointed by the shift of Labour under Tony Blair and by 2014 he had come to feel, hesitantly, that Scottish independence might be the best political solution.
William McIlvanney died on 5 December 2015 at the age of 79, after a short illness. On hearing of his death, a number of public figures, including Nicola Sturgeon, Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh, paid tribute noting both his inspirational writing and his likeable and gentlemanly personality.The Telegraph obituary noted: "Many authors are admired. Many are respected. Few are loved as he was, for what they are as well as for what they have written."
His first book, Remedy is None, was published in 1966 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1967.Docherty (1975), a portrait of a miner whose courage and endurance is tested during the depression, won the Whitbread Novel Award.
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. The novel was adapted into a film in 1990 directed by David Leland, starring Liam Neeson, and featuring Billy Connolly.
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's calling the term Tartan Noire.
McIlvanney was also a poet, and wrote The Longships in Harbour: Poems (1970) and Surviving the Shipwreck (1991), which also contains pieces of journalism, including an essay about T. S. Eliot. 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.
From April 2013, McIlvanney's writing was regularly published on his own website, which features personal, reflective and topical writing, as well as examples of his journalism.