A haphazard record of experience, feeling and thought . . .

 The Jury Room  (Week 10)                                                                             Posted 15th July 2014

Body-surfing and solitaire for two or...        From The Herald : Sat 16-May-1998

            Will you love me forever tonight?

Sunbed the Sailor, who sees a girl in every port, is standing at the bar, staring into the glass of Cockburn's in his hand. They bring a bottle of it through from the bar in the restaurant, if necessary, any time he comes in. The Jury Room is like that, careless about having anything as exotic as port or lemon slices but obliging enough to send a runner to the restaurant for them on request.

The brandy glass in which they serve him (Come on, it's not Optrex I'm drinking) hangs with the stem between his middle fingers. The deep red of the port tremors there, catching small blades of light like icicles that melt instantly. The effect is mesmeric, as is the unnaturally dark sheen of Sunbed's hair, the source of which is said by many in the Jury Room to be Cherry Blossom.

Apart from his colouring, he looks like a cut-price Rutger Hauer - hair combed straight back from a big-boned, worn face. The long, expensive raincoat is open to reveal a suit that might be by Armani out of Ralph Slater. There are three buttons undone on his shirt, showing a tan all the way down in his cleavage. He is unusually thoughtful.

Can you believe it? he says to me.

I can and I do. I know what he is referring to, something which happened a few minutes ago.

I had been sitting at the table with the Post Romantics, as I sometimes do - Tequila Sunset, Karma Chameleon and Mary Contrary. These are three interestingly different women, presumably connected partly by the accidents of circumstance and partly by the shared experience of being a woman in these shifting times.

They began coming to the Jury Room together before the Singles Nights and then took to dropping in from time to time for no other reason than to be there. Sometimes they appear to be just passing through, limbering up en route to more exciting places, like Cottyer's or Victoria's. (To read on click here.)



 At the Bar                                                                                                         Short Story  

The pub was quiet. When the big man with the ill-fitting suit came in, the barman noticed him more than he normally would have done. The suit was slightly out of fashion yet looked quite new and it was too big for him. He could have come back to it after a long illness. Yet it wasn't that either. Whatever had happened to him had tightened him but not diminished him. The char­coal grey cloth sat on him loosely but that looked like the suit's problem. You wouldn't have fancied whoever the suit might fit to come against the man who wore it.

He came up to the bar and seemed uncertain about what to order. He looked along the gantry with a bemused innocence, like a small boy in a sweet-shop.

`Sir?' the barman said.

The big man sighed and shook his head and took his time. His face looked as if it had just come off a whetstone. The cheek-bones were sharp, the mouth was taut. The eyes were preoccupied with their own thoughts. His pallor suggested a plant kept out of the light. Prison, the barman thought.

`Uh-huh,' the big man said. 'Fine day. I'll have.' It seemed a momentous choice. 'A pint of heavy.'

He watched the barman pull it. Paying, he took a small wad of singles from his pocket and fingered them deliberately. He studied his change carefully. Then he retreated inside himself.

Making sure the patch of bar in front of him was clean, he spread his Daily Record on it and started to read, the sports pages first. (To read on click here.)


This website features writing by award-winning author and journalist William McIlvanney. One or two new Dispatches will be posted regularly and will be archived on this site. A lot of the writing featured here is new and unpublished, although extracts from Willie's existing body of work - journalism, essays and short stories - will also be included. All writing -
William McIlvanney.
Click here for the latest Dispatches updates








To read Doug Johnstone on William McIlvanney click here.
Willie and his website are featured on page 3 of S on S. Click here.

To read Susan Mansfield's article on William McIlvanney click here.

To read Allan Massie on William McIlvanney click here.


To read Hugh Macdonald on William McIlvanney click here.



At the Haye Festival on Sunday June 2nd 2013, Irvine Welsh interviewed William McIlvanney. Check it out here. After one particularly dark question about the socio-economic conditions in eighties Scotland, Irvine lifted the mood with: "Anybody got a question about puppies, bunnies & kittens?" Love it! And what an infectious laugh!
 As Bloody Scotland 2014 approaches we look back on last year's event
 Report on Willie at  Bloody  Scotland 2013
 Len Wanner’s introduction to the man  himself was fulsome and considered.  Comments such as … created an  archetype with an all access pass …  seen as the source for tartan noir  …the genre debt to him is remarkable.

 When Len paused for a response,  Willie joked he should now leave, that  anything else would be an anti-climax.
 Len’s first question, almost inevitably  – because it’s what I wanted to know,  was why did he turn to crime?

 After writing his critically acclaimed  novel, Docherty, Willie felt what he  described as contemporary  starvation. He want to connect with  his peers and on further deliberation  he said he heard a voice. This voice in  his head was abrasive … it was  clearly Scottish and he deliberately  made him a policeman because he  wanted him to deal with the bad stuff  in society.

 He went on to say that he was more  than pleasantly surprised with the  impact.

 He argued that he shouldn’t take sole  credit for beginning a genre. What he  experienced was a hunger for  contemporary life and Laidlaw gave  him a vehicle for re-connecting.
 To read more of Michael Malone's  report click here.
 The Laidlaw Trilogy
 When they were first published, they  won Silver Dagger awards and were  nominated for Edgars. With Canongate  Publishing due to re-launch the Laidlaw  novels, starting  in May 2013, We  feature  extracts from the novels,  selected and  introduced by Willie, as  well as a few interesting extras.
Sean Connery
 "Any attempt to understand such a life  can’t seek to be definitive.  What it can  possibly do is like archaeology , sink  some speculative shafts into those  times and, from what it finds, elicit  some impression of the nature of the  person, arrive perhaps at the salient  features of the life...".
 "I'm on a late-night train leaving Central  Station. I have the compartment to  myself until the train begins to pull out. I  can hear the scuffling sounds in the  corridor outside that announce the man  with drink taken who has just made it.  Experience tells me he will soon be my  travelling companion. He soon is....".
TV-ing it...
 "At one stage, being even shorter of  money than usual, I agreed to do a TV  column for the Glasgow Herald. I  enjoyed it but, finding I did virtually no  other writing during that time, I soon  gave it up. A few samples may give a  flavour of that phase, round about 1979  - 1980, I think."
What other people say about William McIlvanney

While putting this site together for Willie, I decided to add some quotes of what people have said about him and his work over the years. Being a modest elder statesman, Willie was less than enthusiastic about the idea. However, despite Willie's objections, I have gone ahead and included the quotes anyway. They make interesting reading.
Neil McIlvanney

‘This is a man temperamentally incapable of writing bad prose’ – Jan Bell

‘Illuminating and thought-provoking’ – Irvine Welsh

‘Delightfully funny’ - Sunday Telegraph

‘On almost every page it offers matter for reflection’ – Scotsman

‘A natural of the transfixing phrase’ – Sunday Times

‘Fiercely evocative and witty with it’ – Literary Review

‘Inspiring and harshly funny’ – David Hughes

‘Brilliant’ – Ken Dunion

‘McIlvanney writes with appealing grace and thoughtfulness’ – Daily Telegraph

‘Telling observation and clear, perceptive writing’ – Spectator

‘Maturely reflective and insightful’ – Rosemary Goring

‘Hilarious, moving and incredibly articulate’ – Irish Times

 ‘Beguilingly brilliant’ Sunday Times
2013 - A Busy Year

William McIlvanney's 2013 was a busy year:
20th April 2013 – Glasgow
Aye Write 19.30 - 20.30
2nd May Waterstones West End, Edinburgh event
16th May Waterstones Argyle Street, Glasgow event
31st May – Bristol
Crime Fest 14.50 - 15.40 Panel Event: The Underbelly of Crime Fiction with Michael Stanley, Antonin Varenne and Tim Weaver. Moderator:Craig Robertson.
1st June Bristol Crime Fest 12.30 - 13.20 Main event: William McIlvanney and Denise Mina
Interviewer Jake Kerridge
2nd June – Hay-on-Wye Event
Chair: Irvine Welsh
20th July – Harrogate, Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, chaired by Ian Rankin 9.00 - 10.00am
16th August –
Edinburgh International Book Festival
13th to 15th September – Stirling, Bloody Scotland
  e-mail: william.mcilvanney@personaldispatches.com