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Laidlaw [Paperback]

William Mcilvanney
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Aug 1992

Jack Laidlaw's Glasgow is a city of hard men, powerful villains and self-made businessmen, of big industry and its victims, of enduring women, terrible slums and, one morning, of murder. An unorthodox detective who cloaks compassion with sardonic wit, Laidlaw knows the right questions to ask, threading his way through the pubs and clubs, the bookies' and tenements, trying to find the killer of a young, apparently innocent girl.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (1 Aug 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340576901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340576908
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 517,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Glittering (VAL McDERMID)

The Laidlaw books are like 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)

A crime trilogy so searing it will burn forever into your memory. McIlvanney is the original Scottish criminal mastermind (CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE)

It's doubtful I would be a crime writer without the influence of McIlvanney's Laidlaw. Here was a literary novelist turning his hand to the urban, contemporary crime novel and proving that the form could tackle big moral concerns and social issues (IAN RANKIN)

The first of Laidlaw's investigations sets a stunningly high standard ... A world apart from other examples of the genre (Guardian)

The Laidlaw books are not just great crime novels, they are important ones. McIlvanney proved that crime writing could have both perfect style and huge ambition. Most of us writing crime fiction today are standing on the shoulders of giants. McIlvanney is one such giant (MARK BILLINGHAM)

McIlvanney is the razor king of Scottish crime writing, carving out crackling prose and pounding storylines. His Laidlaw is an enduring hero with the dry wit and insight to make other literary detectives seem two-dimensional (GORDON FERRIS)

William 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)

Deeply understood people, fine descriptive writing (The Times)

In his compelling novel, LAIDLAW, McIlvanney lays bare the soul of Glasgow, capturing every nuance of its many voices (ALEX GRAY)

Laidlaw is a fascinating, infuriating and memorable character . . . McIlvanney probes the nature of society and the limitations of human guilt with razor sharpness (Scotsman)

The best new character in crime fiction for years (Daily Express)

[MacIlvanney] shows deftly and convincingly why crime fiction is the ideal place for closely-observed social realism, painting a vivid portrait of working-class Glasgow in the 1970s in the extracts from his three novels, all featuring Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw (Bram E. Gieben The Skinny)

McIlvanney's prose is simultaneously sparse and lyrical. Short sentences, paragraphs and, indeed, chapters give the feel of a thriller to some beautiful writing (Gareth Watkins Killing Time Crime)

His tough, vivid prose combines the sardonic wit and stark economy of Chandler with the authenticity and artfulness of his own much-admired non-genre work. The DNA of all Scottish crime fiction is here (The Skinny)

It is great entertainment, but McIlvanney's achievement is to transcend the conventions of the crime novel even while he observes them. His two subsequent Laidlaw novels, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties, will be published by Canongate in the autumn. The trilogy is one of the finest things in modern fiction, in the Chandler and Simenon class (Allan Massie Spectator)

A classic of the genre - a maelstrom of gangland violence, brutal sentimentality and sectarianism told in richly Gothic prose. If you only read one crime novel this year, this should be it - but you'll undoubtedly want to read the other two books in the trilogy, which will be reissued in a couple of months' time (Laura Wilson Guardian)

An excellent read that is as much about the human condition as it is a crime story (The View From The Blue House)

The city of Glasgow is captured magnificently by McIlvanney in this novel with every nuance of the city oozing from the pages. The humour and friendliness are here but in equal measure so is the squalor and the undercurrent of fear which runs across the city like a needle on a record. As we read the book we feel like we are walking the streets of Glasgow with Laidlaw (Literature for Lads) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The godfather of Scottish crime is back with a vengeance --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wha daur meddle wi me... 24 Jun 2013
"Glasgow was home-made ginger biscuits and Jennifer Lawson dead in the park. It was the sententious niceness of the Commander and the threatened abrasiveness of Laidlaw. It was Milligan, insensitive as a mobile slab of cement, and Mrs Lawson, witless with hurt. It was the right hand knocking you down and the left hand picking you up, while the mouth alternated apology and threat."

When Jennifer Lawson's body is found in Kelvingrove Park, it falls to Laidlaw and his colleague Harkness to find the man who raped her and beat her to death. But they're not alone in the search. Jennifer's father, Bud Lawson, wants to get there first, to mete out his own form of justice. And both Lawson and the killer have contacts in the city's underworld - men for whom violence replaces judge and jury. So the race is on...

McIlvanney's Glasgow is a bleak place, with violence never far beneath the surface, fuelled by drink and prejudice. A place of contradictions, where love exists but doesn't flourish, where loyalty is a product of fear and betrayal is met with uncompromising brutality. Laidlaw is our everyman, our observer - a player, yes, and a flawed one, but with an understanding of humanity that allows him to look beyond events to their causes, and to empathise where others condemn.

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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
In this classic novel from 1977, Scottish author/poet William McIlvanney pulls out all the literary stops, creating a novel so filled with ideas, unique descriptions, and unusual characters that labeling it as one of the great crime novels does it a disservice. It is also a literary novel of stunning originality, so unusual for its time that it is now labeled as the first of the “Tartan noir” novels, with McIlvanney himself described as the “Scottish Camus.” Two additional novels have also been released in the UK, also featuring Detective Inspector Laidlaw of the Glasgow Crime Squad, “a potentially violent man who hated violence, a believer in fidelity who was unfaithful, and active man who longed for understanding.”

The Prologue establishes the unique nature of this novel, with an unnamed young man running and running, totally in tune with his senses, knowing he has done something terrible but not why. At about the same time, Detective Inspector Laidlaw is thinking some of the same things that the running man has been thinking. Even as a child, “He [experienced] nights when the terror of darkness had driven him to his parents’ room. He must have run for miles on that bed.” Tommy Bryson, the running man, has killed a young woman, and Laidlaw, the detective, will be the one most in tune with Bryson in the search to find him in this dramatic and unusual novel of pursuit in which two men, one a killer and one a policeman, reveal themselves to be not so different from each other after all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail to gritty Glasgow 1 Aug 2014
If you are looking for a novel set in Glasgow with a difference, then William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw novel may be the one for you. It’s grim, bleak but oh so intriguing. Authentic in language and setting and evocative and suggestive of so much more.

Glasgow of course is a major character in the Laidlaw novel and the descriptions are evocative of a dark side of the city that you won’t necessarily want to visit.

However this is the joy of fiction is it not? to see and wonder about a city that you may or may know. A side to the city that is a fictional creation but a thrilling one at that. McIlvanney’s Glasgow is a bleak place, with violence never far beneath the surface, fuelled by drink and prejudice.

The novel is a journey around this city of dank despair – and when it opens with a girl’s body found in one of the city’s parks, it is up to Laidlaw and his team to find out what happened. the race is on. However the real race seems to be between them finding the killer and the girl’s father finding who killed his daughter. The father has contacts in the city’s underworld which changes things.

This is the Glasgow of the 1970s – not just the streets and the city atmosphere but the attitudes, lifestyle, drinking culture and of course the language. All focusing on building a highly evocative image of the underbelly of the city, its people and the time period.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius 6 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It took me a long time to get to this book and now I know I should have read it years ago. The plot is relatively simple - the hunt for the murderer of a teenager - and the action sparse but violent so what's to like? It's the journey to the solution which is absolutely gripping. I've never seen Glasgow better portrayed - the landscape, the patter and the people are all spot on and Laidlaw is the product of this background where self confidence was not a virtue and blowing your own trumpet was discouraged at every turn. If you can cope with the vernacular this is a tremendous read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay
not my cup of tea
Published 15 hours ago by M H Farmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value
These bags look ideal for the money. Haven't used them yet but like the pockets. Smelled a bit of plastic so needed airing but otherwise look useful
Published 26 days ago by L. Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars McCHANDLER
This is my first detective story that has been able to take Chandler on at his own game. I mean the game of smart-alec dialogue and throwaway comments. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DAVID BRYSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Thinks The Law Has Anything To Do With Justice
Every once in a while you come across a novel that sets you back. Such a novel has all the elements you are looking for. Read more
Published 2 months ago by prisrob
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting
Dissapointed with this my forst book by the author. Think I lost something by not knowing the history of the characters. Otherwise the plot was good
Published 4 months ago by alex mcintyre
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
This is a good story, but McIlvanney's writing makes it great. He has a fantastic turn of phrase and is a joy to read.
Published 4 months ago by E. Cameron
5.0 out of 5 stars TV Series?
A friend recommended 'Laidlaw' and really glad he did. Terrific detective story, tackling issues head on and every word counts. Occasional shades of Raymond Chandler. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lyngheath
4.0 out of 5 stars Laidlaw
it was like visiting an old friend, Laidlaw was the template for the deep, dour and complex Scottish detective. And it transported me to the Glasgow of my youth, a great read.
Published 5 months ago by Dave Ross
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my type of book
I found this book okay, it didn't keep me engrossed and I probably won't read another one as it seems very dated.
Published 5 months ago by Anne Jack
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior Tartan Noir
Compared with other crime writers currently pounding the beat, McIlvanney's "Laidlaw" is extremely light on plot and focused instead on the mood of the city in which it is... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jl Adcock
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