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on 20 May 2017
Essential reading, as are all the Laidlaw books, which I am re-reading and enjoying at the moment..
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on 8 September 2013
I have enjoyed this book as much as the first Laidlaw novel and will look forward to any others when they become available
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 May 2012
William McIlvanney's 1983 novel The Papers Of Tony Veitch was his second (of three) to feature the gritty maverick, Glasgow-based detective Jack Laidlaw, following his debut in Laidlaw and prior to his third incarnation in Strange Loyalties. On the face of it, these novels could be regarded as 'mere crime fiction', but this is far from the truth. Acting as a clear (and acknowledged) influence for the later writing of Ian Rankin (with his Rebus series of novels), McIlvanney transcends genre in these books, which are full of brilliant (and, one suspects, entirely authentic) characterisations, whether they be of bent coppers, hardened criminals or innocent civilians, together with a biting thread of dark humour. Indeed, it is this edge of black comedy which, for me, probably distinguishes the Laidlaw novels from Rankin's Rebus tales - a characteristic which (though not originating from the region myself) seems to me to be a (perhaps subtle) difference between the cultures of the two cities Glasgow and Edinburgh - in effect, the Glaswegian take on life is along the lines of 'life may be tough, but you've got to see the funny side of it'.

In fact, one of the main criticisms I would have of McIlvanney's Laidlaw novels is that they are not long enough. At around the 250-300 page mark, McIlvanney does a (particularly) brilliant job at his character (and, indeed, plot) development - but I can't help thinking that if he extended the books to say around the 400-500 page mark (as did Rankin in his later Rebus novels) they would be even greater works. In the Papers Of Tony Veitch, McIlvanney attempts to create around 15 or so significant characters, including the hard-bitten, married (but, typically, separated) Laidlaw, his sidekick Brian Harkness, a smattering of corrupt cops and a deliciously portrayed collection of Glasgow's underworld criminals led by gang-leaders John Rhodes and Cam Colvin. What follows is a relatively straightforward tale of murder, betrayal and retribution, but always peppered with McIlvanney's (principally via central character Laidlaw's) studied and reflective passages and his brilliantly witty observations on life.

There is no doubt in my mind that, had McIlvanney wanted to, he could have used his Laidlaw character to deliver him just as successful a series of novels as Ian Rankin did with John Rebus. It is also arguably the case that McIlvanney had an even richer seam of Scottish life to mine with his setting of Glasgow, one which this author depicts with a vital sense of realism, poetic realism, even, such as in the following extract from this novel, 'It was a place so kind it would batter cruelty into the ground'.
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on 22 June 2013
Completely gripping and wonderfully written!loved the fact is was set in Glasgow. Seldom do you read a who done it with such wonderful vocabulary. I'd never had to use the dictionary on my Kindle before. Fantastic!
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on 15 March 2001
This is the second book featuring Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw, where he once again travels the mean streets of Glasgow, trying to find Tony Veitch, a young student who may have killed an alcoholic vagrant and a criminal. Down and outs, titled ladies, and middle class students mingle with the hard men of the Glasgow underworld in ever changing alliances as Laidlaw and Harkness, his sergeant, try to get at the truth of two, then three, deaths. There are seemingly no heroes in this world, not even Laidlaw himself, who is laid even more bare to the reader by Harkness's perceptions of him, but one does emerge. Laidlaw's, and McIlvanney's, heroes are the middle aged to elderly working class women who have held home and family together through depression, war, and overwhelming change in the world. The personification here is Jinty Adamson, the alcoholic's sister, who was always his family, his island of calm, in the raging sea of his life. An engrossing read which is very literary, yet is an exceptional police procedural story.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2016
The second in a series of novels involving Detective Jack Laidlaw, this can be read as a freestanding novel.

From one angle, it has a hackneyed plot involving the familiar maverick detective with a dysfunctional family life, who cannot rest if he feels that the suspicious death of an alcoholic tramp is being discounted as unimportant, or until he has pursued his hunch that an ambitious colleague’s desire for a quick win is leading to the pinning of a couple of murders on the wrong man, who being conveniently dead cannot prove that he did not commit suicide. Laidlaw’s incongruous literary streak is at odds with the tough background which enables him to understand ordinary Glaswegians. Laidlaw is no saint: he falls off his lime-juice and soda bandwagon to go on binges; he indulges himself in an affair with a heart-of-gold barmaid, his much-heralded “honesty to a fault” at work not extending to his dealings with his wife; he is irresponsibly rash in achieving his ends.

What sets this novel apart is McIlvanney’s spiky style as a latter-day Glaswegian Chandler, bombarding us to saturation point with quirky, quick-fire observations. Linked to this is the powerful sense of place, bringing Glasgow alive even for those who have never visited it.

Examples of the striking prose:

“…the fiercest man is the one who has had his incomprehensibly private values encroached upon. Attack a mouse in its hole and it will try to nibble you to death”.
“Middle age was a foreign country here. This was a shrine to youth, where compromise was like a profanation”.
“He mainlined anecdotes about working-class life. I used to tell him daft things. Like eating porridge out of a drawer.”
“She was dressed to go out, if not to emigrate… She gave the immediate impression of wearing her boutique”.
“…Anderston .. an area of the city that memorialises a part of Glasgow’s confused quarrel with itself, a warm and vivid slum expensively transformed into a cold and featureless one.”
“That past moment was like a booster rocket, falling into irrelevance. IT only served to kick him further into the manic orbit he was following, fuelled on his compulsion to find what everyone else said wasn’t there.”
“There must be those who, if a dying man told them the secret of all life and swore at them at the same time, would only remember that he swore.”
“What are your drinking, love?... Gin and catatonic?”
“The ceremony (funeral) had its origins in something for which people were prepared to walk into the mouths of lions but which had since often been processed into spiritual Valium that reduced God to the role of a celestial chemist”.

I agree with reviewers who have suggested that the book would have benefitted from being longer. After painstakingly setting the scene and establishing the plot with many digressions to reveal the characters' opinions and personalities, the final chapters seem to me quite rushed, to such an extent that I did not fully understand the reasons for the final murder, but did not feel sufficiently interested to go back and trace them.

I often found the use of different viewpoints clunky, the dialogues artificial, an overuse of caricatures, the plot somewhat plodding. Yet I appreciate why McIlvanney’s style, the spate of unique and unexpected turns of phrase, is so admired, although it tends to be too contrived for one to care much about what befalls the characters.
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on 22 October 2014
The book is pretty dark and sometimes gloomy and the plot is nothing out of the ordinary.
It will do little to enhance Glasgow as a tourist destination if readers don't realise that it harks back a generation to the days of the
Glasgow hard men, who hopefully are now less in evidence, although Ian Rankin has dragged some of them into the lime-light more recently.
However, it is wonderfully written, with some of the best one liners that you will find anywhere, and a wordiness that sometimes made me resort to the Kindle dictionary.
I feel that Scottish readers may get more out of the vernacular than I did.
There must be a niche in fiction for a happy detective with a fulfilled home life, certainly Laidlaw is not one.
I certainly intend to read the third part of the trilogy.
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on 4 July 2013
McIlvanney is a true wordsmith using the language in an apparently effortless way to create characters with depth and to describe a city of variety and contradictions. These contradictions are reflected in the main character and give an extra dimension to a brilliant crime story. Reading this book you will enjoy a cracking good tale but you will also savour the richness of language and the description of characters through the expert use of well chosen words crafted by an expert story teller. A great read on many levels.
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on 12 July 2013
loved this book about glasgow gangsters and the laidlaw character.the glasgow patter was brilliant, will read a lot more of william mcllvanney,s books
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on 5 March 2015
Simply brilliant. A cop with a firm belief in humanity. "Everybody's dying should matter to someone"says Laidlaw as he reflects on the death of an old alcoholic tramp.....
This trilogy is a must read. Oh some of the language is in broad dialect. But once you tune in you will be glad you did.
Mcilvanney is said to be writing Laidlaw 4. For all our sakes, i hope he is.
Patrick south Lanarkshire
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