The Novels
Laidlaw is a complex, unconventional detective: in Glasgow you need to be. Not everybody thinks so. Detective-Inspector Milligan, for instance, who has a frequent urge to rearrange Laidlaw’s features, believes it’s Them and Us. “They think so don’t they? Laidlaw, he thinks criminals are underprivileged. He doesn’t know what side he’s on.” Laidlaw thinks there are no fairies, no monsters, just people. And knowing that keeps you from making the commonest mistake people make when they think about murder: that it’s the culmination of an abnormal sequence of events. “It’s only that for the victim. For everybody else – the murderer, the people connected with the victim – it’s the beginning of the sequence.”

This sequence begins with the discovery of the torn and murdered body of young Jennifer Lawson one morning in a Glasgow park. Laidlaw, assisted by Detective Constable Harkness, is given free rein in his search for the murderer. He is not however, alone in the hunt; two other forces, neither of them legal, are after the man; not to mention Milligan, who is determined his own more orthodox methods should be proved.

And as Laidlaw threads his way through the city and its inhabitants, the race develops: against time and against death. In the company of papersellers, bus conductors, bartenders, hotel receptionists, drunk old men in dusty wine bars, greasy young toughs on street corners; by way of echoing Victorian station halls, bookmakers’ offices, tired hotel lounges with flickering television sets, noisy night clubs lit as dim as hope, pubs’ quiet parlours where the wrong gesture is a challenge; walking through the streets of Glasgow and through the murderer’s lost mind. Laidlaw finds the right questions to ask.
 Other People on Laidlaw

“I have seldom been so seized by a style or so taken with a character as I was by Laidlaw…McIlvanney has broken new ground and is to be congratulated on his talent and his daring.” ROSS MACDONALD                                                                                                                      

"The Laidlaw books are like a fine malt whisky - the pure distilled essence of Scottish crime writing."  
PETER MAY                                                                              

"Fastest, first and best, Laidlaw is the melancholy heir to Marlowe. Reads like a breathless scalpel cut through the bloody heart of a city." DENISE MINA

Laidlaw is an enduring hero with the dry wit and insight to make other lierary detectives seem two- dimensional. McIlvanney is the razor king of Scottish crime writing." GORDON FERRIS

"Compelling...McIlvanney lays bare the soul of Glasgow, capturing every nuance of its many voices."

"Enthralling... an unusual, unique rendition of a city and society." THE SCOTSMAN

"McIlvanney paints a world of harsh reality, but does so in language that is strangely beautiful and hauntingly poetic. His work defies pigeonholing in any genre: this is simply great writing from a master of his craft." CRAIG RUSSELL

 William McIlvanney introduces an extract from Laidlaw

 Extract from Laidlaw

     `You think this could be it?'
     `It could be,' Laidlaw said. 'But I don't think so.'
     `Why not?'
     `You ask yourself,' Laidlaw said. 'Is it likely? A fella as open to suspicion as he seems to be hasn't come forward to cover himself. What does that mean? I think it means he's frightened in the most natural way. He knew the girl. He was fixed up to see her that night. To himself, he's a suspect. So he hides. He admits nothing. But guilt's a different proposition. Guilty, you work out what everybody thinks of you. You go through the card. You start to place deliberate bets. Because you're working out the odds. This fella hasn't made a move yet. We could find him as easily as this and he hasn't moved. No. That won't do. I smell red herring. So we have to go where the smell leads us.'
     `It could be him. He could be so petrified he can't think what to do.'
     `I'll tell you what. If Alan McInnes is at this party tonight, it isn't him. That's the way I bet. But it's still important. He might tell us something.'
     In that careful balance between pessimism, the assumed defeat of contrived expectations, and hope, the discovery of unexpected possibilities, Harkness recognised Laidlaw.
     The number the waitress had given Harkness wasn't the number. But they tried a few others and the music brought them to it — Led Zeppelin, Harkness thought. The door said `Lawrie' .They knocked several times before they got an answer. Laidlaw showed who he was and said, 'We're police. May we come in?'
     It was an amazing question. The girl who had opened the door stared at them, the glass tilting in her hand till the drink almost spilled. She was fairly fat, dressed in what looked like brocade curtains. Her broad, pale face was as innocent as a letter home to mother. But it was blotted slightly by her need to work out what she shouldn't say. While she was busy reacting, a boy with long hair and a headband manifested vaguely behind her and disappeared back into the room at the end of the hall, which sounded like the passengers on a liner that is sinking.
A moment later, a self-consciously brisk young man came along the hall to the door. The girl hadn't spoken, still hadn't come out of rehearsals. The best she had managed was not to spill her drink.
     `Yes. Can I help you?'
     Two things struck Harkness: the way so many people, taken socially by surprise, become receptionists; the silence that had occurred behind the young man's back, as if the Titanic had sunk. Where they were was the iceberg. Laidlaw showed his card again, repeated his question.
     `What for?' the young man said.
He was wearing jeans that looked as if they had been dipped in a few paint-pots, and a cheesecloth shirt that had sweated itself to his nipples. He was shaky but determined. Harkness liked him.
     `We want to speak to a boy called Alan McInnes,' Laidlaw said. 'Is he here?"
The girl had become a fascinated bystander. She was doing everything but take notes. The young man was out there in the middle of a crisis. It was his flat, his guest. He was trying to remember his rights. Harkness thought of his father. His father would have sympathised with this boy. So did Harkness.
     `What if he is?' the young man said.
     Laidlaw shrugged.
     `Look, son,' he said. 'We just want to talk to him. If you don't want to let us in, that's up to you. This isn't a raid. But I can make it one, if that's what you want.'
     Faced with no choice, the young man took his time to make it. He was all right, Harkness decided.
     `I suppose you better come in,' he said at last.
     They came in. The girl recovered enough aplomb to shut the door. A side room they passed smelled as if somebody had been burning joss-sticks. As they reached the main room, Harkness realised the music had only been turned down as far as it would go. In the stillness of the room you could hear it whispering. He heard the word 'police' muttered somewhere.
     The party was the statue of a party. For Harkness, the city had turned its back on him all over again. There was no mistaking the meaning of this sculpture: nobody here likes the police. It was part of the folk art of the West of Scotland. Harkness should know. His father was one of its curators.
     There seemed more people in the room than it could hold. To Harkness, the parts were somehow more than the sum. He took in fragments. A boy kept his arm round a girl. A big man with a beard stood very erect, auditioning for Moses. People sat or sprawled or stood motionless, looking at Laidlaw and Harkness. A stunning, black-haired girl leaned back against a wall, like the figurehead of one of Harkness's dreams. Smoke rose in a straight line from somebody's cigarette.
     `This is the police,' the young man said, labouring the silence.
     `I'm sorry to disturb your party,' Laidlaw said. 'But we're looking for Alan McInnes. Is he here?'
     The reaction was a complicated event. It was relief and curiosity and resentment. When the figure stepped forward, he didn't simplify things.
     `I'm Alan McInnes.'
     He had left a girl, who stood conspicuously bereft, a poster of abandonment. Her innocent embarrassment made Laidlaw and Harkness look cruel. Alan McInnes was a good-looking boy, a bit pale, but perhaps that was temporary. Laidlaw nodded to him in a friendly way but it wasn't enough to ease the tension. The unease found a spokesman.
     `Wait a minute! What's this about?'
     It was the big man with the beard. His shirt was open to the navel. Carpeted with hair, his chest sported a medallion that could have anchored the Queen Mary. He stepped into the middle of the floor to make room for his sense of himself. He made his focus Laidlaw.
     `What's this about?'
     Laidlaw was patient.
     `We just want Alan to come with us and answer a few questions. We think he can help us. Alan knows what it's about. Don't you, son?'
     `I think I do.'
      `Son!' The big man waited till the reverberations of his voice had subsided. 'Son? Paternalism is the silk glove of repression.'
     Harkness saw Laidlaw relax and read the sign correctly.The big man had sold the jerseys. He was an ego-tripper, not concerned about Alan McInnes, only about how good he could make himself look in relation to him. Laidlaw ignored him.
     `You don't mind coming with us. Do you, son?'
     `No, I'll come.'
     `No, wait!' The big man was still trying. 'If you've got to have hostages to conformity, take me. I'm against everything you stand for. I'm a dropout. A hippie. A mystic. An anarchist.'
     `I'm a Partick Thistle supporter,' Laidlaw said. 'We've all got problems.'
     Some people laughed. Laidlaw had Glasgowfied what was happening. Alan McInnes came over to them. The man with the beard appealed to an emptying theatre.
     `Capitalism at work,' he said.
     They were looking at Laidlaw. He let the silence build itself into a rostrum.
     `I would say Alan'll be back before the night's out,' he said. `While you're waiting,' he nodded towards the man with the beard, 'why not put out some of your empties? It would give you room to have a real party.'
      They left. The young man in the cheesecloth shirt saw them out. The girl dressed in curtains had drifted back to the door, still balancing her drink. She was getting good enough to make a career of it.

 Laidlaw's Glasgow