Glasgow – Witness the Dead – Craig Robertson

WITNESS

Why a booktrail?

Glasgow 1972 and a serial killer is haunting the city’s nightclubs. Years later, is there a copy cat murderer on the loose?

Story in a nutshell

Scotland 1972.

A serial killer by the name of Red Silk haunts the city’s nightclubs. The police suspect and Archibald Atto, later imprisoned for other murders, and think they have got their man.

Modern day

DS Rachel Narey is called to a gruesome crime scene at the city’s Necropolis. Former detective Danny Neilson spots similarities between the new murder and those he investigated in 1972 – but Atto is still behind bars so who is terrorizing Glasgow now?

Glasgow is the setting the main character and the scene of fear from 1970s across the years.

Place and setting

 The Necropolis 70 Cathedral Square The scene of death in more ways than one Eastern Necropolis - Janefield Street The site of another cemetery Western Necropolis A body is found here at first light Celtic park football club Memories flooded back of dodgy pies from the stalls in the top corner near the Celtic end West Nile Street Where the figure at the start is headed to, an area of clubs and shops

The Necropolis
70 Cathedral Square
The scene of death in more ways than one
Eastern Necropolis – Janefield Street
The site of another cemetery
Western Necropolis
A body is found here at first light
Celtic park football club
Memories flooded back of dodgy pies from the stalls in the top corner near the Celtic end
West Nile Street
Where the figure at the start is headed to, an area of clubs and shops

1970s Glasgow

Blimey this is not the Glasgow you would have wanted to visit. The nightclubs of the city are being stalked by a man known as Red Silk and several woman were murdered in a particularly gruesome way.

Elsewhere however this is a city built on nostalgia and flares, the era of the Thomas Crown Affair, T Rex and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It’s as if this book comes with a song list to fully immerse you in time and place.

There is even a club having a Be Red Silk night in the twisted hope that the killer might be attracted to attend. Fear is endemic and the city is scared –

Glasgow seems to have become split into those who though everything was okay because Red Silk hadn’t struck for three weeks and those who were al the more terrified because he still hadn’t been caught.

Modern Day Glasgow

They called it the City of the Dead. The Sprawling Gothic landscape that perched over Glasgow and contained the remains of fifty thousand lost souls. Now it held fifth thousand and one

Glasgow’s Northern Necropolis, is the scene of the opening crime – a woman dead with the word ‘SIN’ scrawled across her body in red lipstick. Another body appears the next day.

Historic crime returning? Or is Atto simply playing a game of mental chess. the relationship or ‘ bond’ that he and Winter seem to share over images of death is creepy and disturbing. The streets of Glasgow blend with those of the past and the nightclub scene is still as vibrant as ever. It’s the cemeteries and scenes of death which dominate however as well as the gallows humour

It’s the Gorbals fucking Vampire all over again

Bookish musings

Gallows humour and a cemetery tour of Glasgow, an insight into the bowels of the city? I can honestly say this is a cracking read for the sheer realistic tone and portrayal of many of Glasgow’s sights and streets.

I’ve learned several new words since reading Craig Robertson and can say that this book is grim , yes but the gallows humour really made it stand out. Cemeteries are eerie places at the best of times but the dual time line story make them all the more so by linking past and present death.

The verdict?  A Gallus  read 😉

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Redemption Road – Scottish Highlands to Penzance – Lisa Ballantyne

redemption road

Why a booktrail ?

A gritty read about the bonds between parent and child and the threads which can unravel as well as bound us together. From the tip of Scotland to the southern most point of the British Isles

Story in a nutshell

A story of questions and right and wrong

Margaret, a school teacher, is rescued from a burning car. Who was the scared stranger who rescued her and then ran off?

Her life has been full of secrets and she’s determined not to let this be another one. She has to find the man who rescued her in more ways than one.

Meanwhile up in Scotland, a young girl has been abducted and local reporter Angus is keen to find out more. His investigations take him to some dark places and he is soon on the trail of something much bigger.

Over in Glasgow, George belongs to a notorious gangster family. George is looking for a better life and to escape the mistakes of the past.

Three very different lives about to clash.

Place and setting

Thurso - the river Big George feels taller here than he does in Glasgow and feels as if he is dressed wrong and that everyone speaks funny here. Molly and her family live here. Rose Street Where Molly and her family live Dounreay The (in)famous nuclear plant which stands just outside of Thurso and is where Molly’s stepfather works Wick The newspaper offices are here where Angus files his story on the missing school girl Glasgow - Glasgow Park Where George goes to propose to Kat
Thurso – the river
Big George feels taller here than he does in Glasgow and feels as if he is dressed wrong and that everyone speaks funny here. Molly and her family live here.
Rose Street
Where Molly and her family live
Dounreay
The (in)famous nuclear plant which stands just outside of Thurso and is where Molly’s stepfather works
Wick
The newspaper offices are here where Angus files his story on the missing school girl
Glasgow – Glasgow Park
Where George goes to propose to Kat

The story has three main settings – London, Glasgow and Wick in the Scottish Highlands where the threads of the story start separately. We move back and forward in time to see the build up to current day events.

London

Where the novel opens and where the main action of the novel takes place. Margaret is driving along Willis Street when we meet her. But it’s then that the accident happens on the M11 and she’s taken to the Royal London Hospital.

Margaret’s story unfolds her and her story is a search which takes her across London in search of that scarred man who found her. She wants to know more about him and her childhood which has always been a mystery.

Scotland – Glasgow and Thurso

The main setting of the story – George is part of a crime family which harasses the city of Glasgow. He’s easy to like as he’s a rogue rather than a hardened criminal. But the weak link in a gangster chain is vulnerable and when something doesn’t go to plan, events turn sinister and his life spirals down a new and dangerous path.

This is Glasgow circa 1985 where you still need coins to operate a call box, and where the life of a criminal is both violent and not for the faint hearted!

Wick

Meanwhile there is a keen journalist, Angus, on the search of his biggest story yet and when he discovers the story of a missing little girl, he thinks he spots something which needs further investigation. He’s  a Scottish lad through and through – hardy – as was brought up in North Bay on the Isle of Barra (Isle of Hebrides) When he visits the parents of abducted Molly Kathleen and John, his curiosity is peaked.

Booktrail review – Clare

Two, well three different stories where the threads become even more entangled and although you can more or less tell where they are going, it’s still a good ride to get there.

Three people with three very different backgrounds and goals in life, from Scotland to Penzance makes for a story which builds from the 1970s to the present day and jumps from one location to another but these threads get tighter until a picture forms.

Margaret’s story of her rescue by the scarred man was intriguing and I was keen to know what happened here. George I felt less for since he was from a criminal family but it was still interesting to see why he did what he did.

The flaws present in all of us and the will to carry on is strong and this was an interesting way to examine those thoughts. Characters are not black and white and I enjoyed reading the three very different opinions of Margaret, George and Angus.

I was very keen to find out like Margaret who the scarred man was and made for a nice twist!

Random – Glasgow – Craig Robertson

random

Why a booktrail?

This side of Glasgow won’t be on any tourist trail or website but it shows the underbelly of a city terrorised by a serial killer who narrates the whole story….

Story in a nutshell

The Cutter

The name leaves little doubt as to the MO of the serial killer stalking the streets of Glasgow. The police have no suspects or motives as the pattern and methods with each murder changes each time. Nothing and no one seems to link each case. Well, there is one thing – each victim has had their little finger of their right hand cut off.

DS Rachel Narey is the one tasked with investigating the murders, but the closer the police get, the more likely it is that his plans will unravel and spill completely out of control.

And that doesn’t bear thinking about

Place and setting

Bath Street Where Jonathan Carr solicitors are Corinthian Club 191 Ingram Street Merchant City Glasgow “The Corinthian annoyed me. It was  a bank until the late 1920s when it became the city’s high court for nearly 70 years” Buchananan Street “He swayed along Buchanan Street as if he owned it” Rhindmuir drive, Bailleston area of city Where Thomas lived and was found murdered Maryhill Road, Bearsden Where William hutchison is found Maryhill Road The supermarket where Fiona Raedale Worked is here
Bath Street
Where Jonathan Carr solicitors are
Corinthian Club
191 Ingram Street
Merchant City
Glasgow
“The Corinthian annoyed me. It was a bank until the late 1920s when it became the city’s high court for nearly 70 years”
Buchananan Street
“He swayed along Buchanan Street as if he owned it”
Rhindmuir drive, Bailleston area of city
Where Thomas lived and was found murdered
Maryhill Road, Bearsden
Where William hutchison is found
The supermarket where Fiona Raedale worked is here

This side of Glasgow won’t be on any tourist map any time soon but then this is what makes it so captivating. Some places you only want to read about in books but its the most chilling view of the city we’ve ever seen.

The story narrated by the killer himself and Glasgow is shaking with fear. Who is stalking their streets and why? The killer gives many interesting view of his Glasgow when stalking his victims. Talking of Jonathon:

I’d followed him. To the Corinthian or from it. From his office to Tiger Tiger. From Glassford Street to the Clyde at Scotstoun.

Glasgow may not know but the reader does from the first few pages. This is the journey of the killer, through his eyes, in his city, on his patch. This man is hunted and with good reason but from both sides – the police and the underworld. And its not the later who he can expect to get the best treatment from.

Glasgow seems a much smaller city at night

The Glasgow underworld are depicted in full graphic detail. Violent and brutal but then the wry comedy emerges –

Nobody in Glasgow was scared of a bit of organised criminal bloodshed

Even the dialect gets in on the act – mirroring the hard faced, graphic, remote, grey and desolate nature of the city itself –

Every one deid is one less bampot on the streets

However, as is very true in Scotland, the moments of comedy can always be overheard in the back of a taxi.

Booktrail review – Clare

With the main character as a serial killer who goes around Glasgow convinced that what he is doing is right and that it needs to be done, this is a crime novel with a difference. His life is a lonely one, full of regrets and he has this urgent matter to take care of, and that is what he is doing now. More importantly he wants others to know about what he is doing and why  – the why being the most important of them all as he wants police and others to know that he’s not just doing this for kicks – no this means something.

How did he get like this and why? What will happen now? Where was the justice system when it was needed? Interesting arguments which I enjoyed getting to grips with.

And Glasgow just has to be the city of choice – its image, style, gallus nature mirrors that of the serial killer. Gallus is a great Scottish word meaning reckless, bold, fearless, cocky….and this is the setting of the novel and its crimes.

The underbelly of the city is vividly and graphically evoked. For me the challenge was to see who I was going to side with – the serial killer or the victims and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.

The Last Days of Disco – Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland – David F Ross

last-days-of-disco_December-with-quotes-resized-275x423

Why a booktrail?

Scottish banter and Glaswegian dialect abound with this story about a group of youngsters who set up a mobile disco

Story in a nutshell 

In the decade that taste forgot, two lads, Bobby and Joey set up a mobile disco  to tour around the country. They’v been best friends since primary school and both have their reasons for a new venture to help them forget their real lives. But at the same time Fat Franny Duncan is the current King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene so it’s anyone’s guess if anyone will feel like dancing at the end of it all

Tragic news from the other side of the world brings the story of disco to a head..

The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982

Place and setting

Onthank fictional Fat Franny Duncan and Joey Miller live here in this working class area and the author William McIllvanny also grew up here Kilmarnock Masonic Hall - 45 London Road one of the early Heatwave Disco gigs takes place here  Police station Don McAllister’s police station. Don's office – if you’re curious – would be on the top floor, far right. Henderson Church - the scene of the riot when Heatwave Disco were ‘supporting’ local band, The Vespas. Dick Institute one of the most handsome and impressive buildings in Kilmarnock. Hobnail’s wife, Senga works there cleaning
Onthank
fictional Fat Franny Duncan and Joey Miller live here in this working class area and the author William McIllvanny also grew up here
Kilmarnock Masonic Hall45 London Road
one of the early Heatwave Disco gigs takes place here
Police station
Don McAllister’s police station. Don’s office – if you’re curious – would be on the top floor, far right.
Henderson Church (Kay Park Parish church) – the scene of the riot when Heatwave Disco were ‘supporting’ local band, The Vespas.
Dick Institute
one of the most handsome and impressive buildings in Kilmarnock. Hobnail’s wife, Senga works there cleaning

1980s Kilmarnock

The 80s was a time for recession in Scotland and this is the setting for the group of adolescents to make a bit of pocket money, even if not a living, by setting up a mobile disco business. How on earth are they going to attempt this and what’s more achieve it?

He had just turned 18. The ink on the cads had barely dried, He just wanted to fanny about. When his dad used that term, it was with disdain, When bobby said it, it sounded aspirational

The relatively small town of Kilmarnock, not far from Glasgow is hardly the ideal place to try you would think  – what with the local gangsters and the lads getting in trouble with the law.

Kilmarnock might not seem a place fora disco battle but with Fat Franny on one side and the two brothers on the other, the stage is set for some fun yet dangerous moves.

Joey was a Rangers fan, but at least he’d grown up on the south side of Glasgow, so he was entitled, Kimarnock was full of fucking Old Firm glory -hunters and Bobby hated all of them

Bobby wants to avoid following his brother into the Falklands war which is ongoing at the time. This as a backdrop together with the recession  really places the book at a particular point in Scotland’s history and gives a sense of hopelessness and poignancy to the lad’s story. The turf war with Fat Franny who fancies himself as the Disco King of Kilmarnock provides the Scottish banter and laugh out loud moments.

And it’s the language – the Scottish vernacular – that really cements the book in the Scottish landscape. If  you don’t speak Scottish dialect then you’ll have learned a few choice words by the end!

are ye listening’ tae me?

And all this time the Falklands war is simmering away in the background, seeping into everyone’s conscience through the media. David Ross gives us bulletins at the start of every chapter about the ongoing war and Thatcher’s wish to send troops there despite not many people in Scotland at the time even caring or knowing where these islands were or why they should be sending their young men out there to fight for them.

Screen shot 2015-03-08 at 11.24.42

Bookish musings

Kilmarnock is the setting here and since the author was born in Glasgow before moving to ‘Killie’ then you can tell he has taken his experiences and impressions of growing up in and around the area for comedic effect here. It’s Scottish banter at its finest and lots of memories of growing up (in the UK) during the 80s – Tiswas? and all the songs which creep into the story make for a nostalgic read. When the tears flow, it’s because of the Falklands war and what that means for the young men who are forced to go out there and fight. And the tears do flow for there are some sad moments, poignant moments and a realisation via the political reminders at the start of chapters of what the situation was like for so many.

The Last Days of Disco is a fun read about growing up in Scotland, wanting to break out of your little life and get out in the world. So to be trapped in a battle of the disco divas – well this was a fun premise indeed.

Loved the inclusion of the Scottish vernacular although the swearing did get a bit much but then the funny takes over again so I couldn’t be distracted for long. Fat Franny is quite a character and I could see all the characters in the book for they all had their own quirky personalities. If you were growing up at the same time, then this will take you back.

Definitely puts Kilmarnock on the literary map. May we return there very soon!

A booktrail around Kilmarnock – Last Days of Disco – David F Ross

Today we hand over to David F Ross and he takes you on a booktrail of Kilmarnock as seen in his book The Last Days of Disco…..

Last Days: The Spirit of the Place

last-days-of-disco_December-with-quotes-resized-275x423

Genius Loci is a Latin phrase that architects – my alter ego does that for a living – understand well. It refers to the protective spirit of a place; the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of it. Its soul, in other terms. When I started to write my first novel, The Last Days of Disco, I desperately wanted to harness the identity of the place in which it would be set. In that sense, writing the book followed a fairly similar process to the one which many architects go through in trying to understand and empathise with the context in which they then attempt to design a response to a particular problem.

The Last Days of Disco is fundamentally about people; their hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, failings. But it’s also about how they respond to the environment around them. Whether they feel trapped by its economic and social constraints or freed by the often subtle – and not always legal – opportunities it nurtures. Place is very important to me, and I set out to write a story in which the context became a peripheral but important character in its own right. The authenticity of the book’s characters hopefully comes across in the way they relate to each other, but also in the familiarity they have with their surroundings.

The book is set in 1982 and located in Kilmarnock, an industrial town in Ayrshire, historically famous for being the home of Johnnie Walker’s Whisky. Like almost all of the town’s industry, the world famous Johnnie Walker plant has now closed. The town hasn’t had its troubles to seek in the 30 years since the book’s timeline ended, however its strength of spirit is palpable.

I’m not from Kilmarnock. I was born in Glasgow but, from my teenage years on, I have lived, loved and prospered there. It’s a part of my soul and I love it dearly, sometimes because of its faults rather than despite them. I hope the book captures some of that unique sense of place and my feelings for it.

There are a few key locations in the book that remain much as they were when I was the same age as the central characters, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller. The story includes descriptions of these places but I thought it might be interesting to show how they are now. Although for the purpose of authenticity, they are illustrated in black and white. As some of you will recall, in 1982 … in the hinterland of Thatcher’s Britain … everything was monochromatic.

Photo-one

The first photograph shows the ‘entrance’ to Onthank in North West Kilmarnock, where the fictional Fat Franny Duncan and Joey Miller both live … and where I grew up. It’s a fairly typical working class area which has the same problems of unemployment, addiction and a lack of a culture of hope and aspiration as many other areas. But it has wonderful stories and inspirational people such as William McIllvanny, who also grew up there.

Photo-2

In the book, one of the early Heatwave Disco gigs takes place in the Kilmarnock Masonic Hall. It’s the type of impenetrable, defensive building that gives nothing away and that whole storyline was born of simply imagining and exaggerating the myth of the Masons and what they might get up to.

photo-three

Five minutes walk from here, on the edge of the town’s brutally outdated one-way traffic system is the Conservative Club. The sign remains over the door but the building has been unused for decades. A metaphor for the current status of the party in the town, maybe.

police-station

Events at the end of the Conservative Club gig, led to the central characters spending a night here, in Don McAllister’s police station. Don office – if you’re curious – would be on the top floor, far right.

Church

En route to the Conservative Club from the Masonic Hall, you would pass the Henderson Church; the scene of the riot when Heatwave Disco were ‘supporting’ local band, The Vespas. Without giving too much of the magic away, this part of the storyline is drawn more from personal experience than the others.

dick-insitutute

On the other side of the Masonic Hall is the Dick Institute, one of the most handsome and impressive buildings in Kilmarnock. The original printing press that produced Robert Burns first edition of poems (The Kilmarnock Edition) is still housed here. The description of Hobnail’s wife, Senga finding an outlet for her own personal dreams through the classical music that she plays as she works there cleaning the building’s interior is one of my own favourites in the book.

boy-on-bike

In the centre of town, the old street patterns and the unique independent character has been lost as a result of the dominance of traffic planning in the 70s. A one-way road system, a centrally placed bus station and the construction of a massive, impenetrable multi-storey car park tell the story of that dominance far better than I can. Such structures tend to neutralise the public realm around them, and this shot is of the Foregate, where – in the book – the entrance to the Metropolis night club is located, under the mass of the car park above it.

building-car-park

The car park itself offers great views across the town’s distinctive skyline – and all of the key buildings described earlier can be seen from its top deck – but very few people ever go up there. I liked the idea of Wullie the Painter falling asleep in his car up here on his birthday, oblivious to what was happening below.

colour-pic

Finally, I wanted to include a view that isn’t in Kilmarnock but is pivotally important not only to this story, but to its sequel The Man Who Loved Islands. I love this panorama from the promontory at Troon Harbour. You can see the Heads of Ayr to the left, the wonderful isle of Arran to the right and the bizarre volcanic plug of the Ailsa Craig in the middle. It’s a place that always makes me feel calm and I tried to capture some of that feeling for Gary immediately before he left to return to barracks in London. When my dad died, I scattered some of his ashes here. It’s a very important place to me.

I hope I’ve managed to capture the unique flavour of Kilmarnock and its fantastic people in The Last Days of Disco, and that it becomes as fondly representative of ‘place’ as Roddy Doyle’s – one of my literary heroes – work is.

The Last Days of Disco is released on March 8th by Orenda books. Thanks David for showing us around!

Killing for Keeps – Newcastle, Glasgow, Rojales – Mari Hannah

small-cover

Killing for Keeps is the fifth instalment in the Kate Daniels series – set in and around the North East – in this instance Newcastle and Blanchland. This is a hard-hitting and chilling case for Northumbria Police, the worst torture case they’ve ever seen.

Mari Hannah has raised the stakes this time – the prologue sets the scene for what will follow. And the first chapter (six weeks later) opens the door to a thrilling narrative when we see just what has taken place and what Kate and her team are up against.

The Tyne Bridge with the Sage in the Background
Kate Daniels is back – with a vengeance

Story in a nutshell

Two brothers from a well-known criminal family are found dead within a few miles of each other – tortured to death.

Ripples start to spread across the city – associates of the men are uneasy and witnesses scared. Kate has to break some rules, putting herself and her career in jeopardy. But there is someone out there who lives by his own rules and is prepared to remove anyone who gets in his way.

This is one investigation that Kate and the team will never forget.

Place and setting – the booktrail of Kate Daniels’ Newcastle.

Market Street - police station and Kate Daniels HQ. Mosley Street - where Newcastle’s club scene is centered. Byker Bridge - where a meeting takes place with a informant. RVI - one of two incidents takes place here. Silverlink Industrial Estate - the first of two cases takes place here. Exhibition Park - Kate passes here on her way to meet a witness in Paddy Freeman’s park (Heaton Road)
Market Street – police station and Kate Daniels HQ.
Mosley Street – where Newcastle’s club scene is centered.
Byker Bridge – where a meeting takes place with a informant.
RVI – one of two incidents takes place here.
Silverlink Industrial Estate – the first of two cases takes place here.
Exhibition Park – Kate passes here on her way to meet a witness in Paddy Freeman’s park (Heaton Road)

Kate Daniels, working at the city’s incident room in Market Street, has a lot on her plate. She is called to two crime scenes within a short space of time – Silverlink and the RVI. Two inconspicuous places, but ones that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Investigations take the team deep in to the heart of Newcastle – to ‘Club Land’ in and around Mosley street – to find witnesses and links to the crimes.

Kate has her work cut out. Under pressure to solve this case and to raise the flagging morale of her team, she’s battling tensions from all sides. Kate Daniels backed into a corner? She fights and then she fights some more. This is no ordinary case and she is keen to protect witnesses as she gets to the truth.

Blanchland. Silverlink, Newcastle. Glasgow. Rojales.
Blanchland.
Silverlink, Newcastle.
Glasgow.
Rojales.

As the investigation continues, she heads up to Blanchland – “the exquisitely tranquil village . . . at the heart of Catherine Cookson country . . . built from the stone of a twelfth-century abbey, the village hadn’t changed in centuries.”        http://www.blanchland.org/news.php

Blanchland
Blanchland 

Visiting a local beauty spot as part of such a brutal investigation – as was the case when Whitby flagged up as a place of interest – is in direct contrast to the reasons why she is there. Remote, rural and for Kate, dangerous too.

As the case progresses, the investigation takes her and DS Hank Gormley north of the border to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Links with one criminal family have a bearing on the entire Newcastle case. Yet the ‘fish out of water’ works well for Hank’s wit to shine through here – regarding the ‘funny money’ that the Scots use and the notion of ‘Geordistan’. And the lesser-known and rather less fashionable meaning behind D & G.

“Edinburgh was as grey as Glasgow had been – only prettier. If she hadn’t been such a fan of her home city, this was the one place Kate would choose to live.”

When the net widens and the investigation takes Kate across to the Continent, to the Rojales region of mainland Spain, near Alicante, the book races to a thrilling finale. But we’ll stop there since to say anymore would be to spoil the surprises shocks in store. And there are plenty. Believe us.

Killing for Keeps is dangerous, chilling and skillfully plotted. Mari’s best yet. Recently, the series has been optioned for television and she has been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library award proving, beyond doubt, that she is a crime writer we’re going to hear a lot more about. We’re proud to say that she’s a local author and has put the North East region firmly on the literary map.

Laidlaw – Glasgow grit – William McIlvanney

laidlaw

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

The cars controlled the people. Sauchiehall street was a graveyard of illuminated tombstones. Buchanan Street was an escalator baring strangers.

George Square. You should have known it. How many times had you wanted for one of the  buses  that ran all through the night? The Square rejected you.

you could only walk and be rejected by the places where you walked…

 

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 thriling one at that. McIlvanney’s Glasgow is a bleak place indeed.

You could walk for as long as you liked in this city and it wouldn’t know you.  You could call every part of it by name. But it wouldn’t answer.

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.

A Glasgow Green B Jocelyn Square (Law Courts) C george square D Buchanan Street E Sauchiehall Street F Kelvingrove park
A Glasgow Green B Jocelyn Square (Law Courts) C George Square D Buchanan Street E Sauchiehall Street F Kelvingrove park

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 –

“Across the street the door of the Corn Exchange opened suddenly and a small man popped out onto the pavement, as if the pub had rifted. He foundered in a way that suggested fresh air wasn’t his element and at once Harkness saw that he was beyond what his father called the pint of no return.”

 

The Glaswegian dialect makes for some evocative Tartan Noir gems too  –

To Harkness speech seemed like  a foreign language here.

‘Oh, they’re in an awfy state, sir,’ the old man said. ‘Sadie especially. Ye couldny get sense oot o’her. They’ve had an awfy time , ye know.

 

The Glasgow humour and foreboding even appears in a simple description of the weather –

Sunday in the park. It was a nice day.  A Glasgow sun was out, duly luminous, an eye with cataract. 

This may not be the kind of tour that a guide from Visit Scotland might offer and indeed remember that this IS fiction and that Glasgow is one of the friendliest and cultural cities in Scotland. Not to mention the  walks beside the canals, the pedestrian city centre and the architecture..

Glasgow's Buchanan Street today
Glasgow’s Buchanan Street today

Definitely a city to explore and admire in real life although if you’re also enthralled by a dark underbelly of a city, and some fine crime writing, then this novel is for you.