Scottish crime novelist William McIlvanney died Saturday morning (December 5th), aged 79 following a short illness.
Best known for his celebrated autobiographical novel Docherty (Canongate) (1975) - winner of the Whitbread Prize - and his trilogy of Glasgow detective novels featuring Inspector Jack Laidlaw, he is widely credited as “The Father of Tartan Noir” for breaking the mould of Scottish crime writing.
His first novel, Remedy is None (Canongate), won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; while Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch (Canongate) both gained Silver Daggers from the Crime Writers' Association. Strange Loyalties (Canongate), the third in the Detective Laidlaw trilogy, won the Glasgow Herald's People's Prize.
McIlvanney, known to many of his friends as "Willie", was also a poet with collection published in 1970 and 1991. The Longships in Harbour: Poems (EYRE & S) tackled issues of war, famine and poverty, reflecting his socialist political views for which he also became known. Born in Kilmarnock in 1936, the son of a miner, his working-class heritage is a theme throughout his work.
McIlvanney contributed as a journalist through columns as well and narrated "Only a Game" - a TV series on Scottish football.
Among those paying tribute, author Ian Rankin said the news was "dreadful" and hailed him “a truly inspired and inspiring author and an absolute gent”. Author Val McDermid, meanwhile, tweeted: “I’ve just heard the heartbreaking news that Willie McIlvanney has died. He showed so many of us Scottish writers what was possible.”
A spokeperson for Canongate, McIlvanney's publisher, told The Bookseller: “McIlvanney was a writer who inspired a generation. Docherty and the Laidlaw series have, amongst others of his books, left a major and lasting impression on the literary landscape. We are enormously proud to publish him, and will miss him hugely now he is gone. Our thoughts are with Siobhan and their two children.”
His agent Jenny Brown told Herald Scotland: "It is a very, very sad day indeed. It is moving to see all the tributes. And it was also fabulous that at least Willie was able to feel cherished and feel that his writing was still held in such high regard, especially since re-publication.
"I am so pleased he was able to receive awards in recent years, like the [Saltire Society's] Fletcher of Saltoun Award in 2013. It meant a great deal to him."
Jamie Byng, of Canongate Books, added: "I am so sad that the incomparable William McIlvanney is dead. But his great books and his memory will live forever."
Politician Alex Salmond, one of the foremost proponents of Scottish independence - a cause which McIlvanney supported, said: "We should all grieve the death of William McIlvanney, a great writer and a passionate Scot who made a real difference to the nation."
Before he took to writing full-time in 1975, McIlvanney taught at Irvine Royal Academy and then Greenwood Academy, Dreghorn, as an English teacher, having graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MA in 1960. He also held a series of creative writing posts at Grenoble, Vancouver, Strathclyde and Aberdeen universities.
McIlvanney was the youngest of four children; his elder brother is Hugh McIlvanney OBE, an award-winning Scottish sports writer, who survives him along with partner Siobhan and his children from a prior marriage Siobhan and Liam.
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