The Novels

‘It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare.’ So begins William Mcllvanny’s novel, and at once we are back in Laidlaw-land, the country of hard lives and harder truths.

None comes harder to Eck Adamson, vagrant and alcoholic, than the fact that he is dying. To his bed in the Royal Infirmary, Cathedral Street, he summons Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw; his only friend among the police of the city, and manages to get out one last desperate message: ‘The wine he gave me wisny wine.’ Along with the messages, he leaves a cryptic note, giving a few lines of amateur philosophising, three names- Paddy Collins, Lynsey Farren, ‘The Crib’ ( a local pub)- and a phone number.

Other policemen might not have bothered with Eck, Laidlaw bothers. Eck’s piece of paper becomes, for the detective a colleague mockingly calls ‘St Francies of Simshill’, a clue not only to the mystery of how a down-and-out died but to the larger mystery of how the rest of us live with the malignancy of our own dubious compromises.

For a start ‘The Crib’ is a pub where ‘Behemoth would have been no better than even money’ Paddy Collins had been part of Glasgow’s under world before he was found stabbed to death –with so many holes in him ‘they didn’t know whether to bandage him or play a round of golf on him’. Laidlaw finds that Lynsey Farren is titled tourist among the rough men and the one-time girlfriend of a young Glasgow student, Tony Veitch. What he can’t find is Tony Veitch.

The phone number turns out to be that of a public phone box, which seems appropriate since that implication of the story take in all of Glasgow and its people.

 Other People on 'Strange Loyalties'

“In a class of his own.”   The Guardian

"A great piece of writing and it comes with one of the most intelligent and provocative denouements read in years ." Time Out

"Glittering. "  Val McDermid

"A crime trilogy so searingit will burn forever into your memory. McIlvanney is the original Scottish criminal mastermind."  Chris Brookmyre

"Compelling...McIlvanney lays bare the soul of Glasgow, capturing every nuance of its many voices."  
Alex Gray

" Enthralling... an unusual, unique rendition of a city and society."  The Scotsman

"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

"The Laidlaw books are like a fine malt whisky - the pure distilled essence of Scottish crime writing. "  Peter May                                                                                               

 William McIlvanney introduces an extract from 'Strange Loyalties'

 An Extract from 'Strange Loyalties'
     `Jack. When did Ah get on to your social calendar?'
     `This is true.'
     `So what's this about?'
     Jennifer was back with the amended slip. She laid it beside Eddie and went away. I reached across and lifted it to look. It was printed in that faint blue type that looks as if it's dissolving. I could just about make it out. It said £5.50.
     `Ah'm gettin' that, Jack,' Eddie said.
      He was watching me. I continued to hold the slip of paper in my hand, studying it.
     `This bill's wrong, Eddie,' I said.
     He took it from me and looked at it. He had to get out his glasses. He counted his way through the small column of figures.
     `No, it's right,' he said.
     `The bill's wrong.'
      He looked at me over his glasses.
     `You owe a fuckin' sight more than that, Eddie Foley,' I said. 'An' ye're gonny pay.'
      His right hand took off his glasses in slow motion. He looked round Rico's. He looked back at me. I nodded.
     `Time to divvy up,' I said.
      His hand slowly abandoned his glasses on the table. `What's this about?' he said.
     `It's about the firm you work for is going to go out of business in the next few days. I'm the liquidator.'
     He turned his head slightly sideways to look at me. He seemed to be trying to see past my words to the joke that must lie behind them.
     `Could I see your credentials, please?' he said, smiling.
     `You're seeing them. Me. Believe them or don't. And don't smile, Eddie. Don't smile. Or I'll arrange for you to lose your teeth.'
     It was the strangeness of the threat that convinced him. We had never spoken to each other before except either in a friendly way or through an agreed ritual of jocular enmity.
     He knew that I had changed the terms on which we were meeting. I watched his eyes try to work out where he now was.
     `What's happened?' he said.
     `You know what's happened. You always did. The difference is that now I know as well.'
     His breathing wasn't relaxed.
     `Like what?' he said.
     `Your boss has lost it, Eddie. Talk about misjudging the market? He's killed two people in the last three months. I think it's called over-extending yourself. Who the hell does he think he is? Attila the Hun?'
     `Ah don't know what ye're talkin' about.'
     `That's fine. Just as long as I do.'
     `Ah don't. Ah really don't.'
     `Dan Scoular. Meece Rooney.'
     `Ah don't know what ye're talkin' about.'
     `Hey! What d'ye think this is? A lavatory pan? Talk shite somewhere else.'
     'But Ah - '
     He froze. His eyes were nervous as a mouse along the wainscot where there is no exit.
     `Don't do that.This is away past telling wee fibs to the polis. Stay quiet if ye want. But let's not sit here saying what we both know is crap.'
     He subsided gently, staring at the table.
     `Listen. I'm making an assumption about you. That you didn't actually do the things. That you weren't directly involved. That's not what you do. If I'm wrong, then you'll know I'm wrong. And when I go out this door, you better move fast and far. Because it'll be you I'm looking for. But I don't think you did.'
     He had no impulse to talk now. He looked as if he was seeing his lawyer in his head.
     `Because I think I know what you're like. Know what I think you're like, Eddie? You're like a maintenance worker at Dachau or somewhere. You might convert the showers to gas. You might make sure the doors lock properly. But you wouldn't actually kill anybody. You're nice that way. You do a practical job and go home and forget about it. Seems a few of them did that there. In those places. Go home and play with the kids. Forget about it.'
     He was fingering his glasses.
     `Well, I'm here to remind you, Eddie. Time to stop playing at wee houses.You owe. Now there are two ways you can pay. Reluctantly or of your own free will. The first way will come dear. I'm going to get Matt Mason. I know he's the head of what happened. Who the obedient bodies were, I don't know. But I will. You stand in my way, you're going, too. Everything goes. Your lifestyle. The way your family think of you. The lot. If you help, you get to keep your family's sense of you. You stay out of jail. That's it.'
     His hand was gripping his glasses, clouding them.
     `You're right, Eddie. You're not on my social calendar. I don't like you. You're like a permanent flu virus in everybody else's life. You leave them vulnerable. But Mason's cancer. I'm going to cut that bastard out.You can be part of the operation or part of the tumour. No other choice.'
     I made to sip my coffee but it was getting cold. I took out a cigarette and lit it. I knew Eddie didn't smoke these days. Maybe it was so that he would be there when his grandchildren came. I had said what I had to say. The way he took it was the way he took it. I would be going on from here, whatever. I smoked for a time.
     `I'm not agreeing with anything,' Eddie said. But could you be more specific?'
     `There's a way I can do this where you're not directly involved. Only you and me'll know. And maybe a colleague that I know I can trust.'
     `What if I don't trust him?'
     `Hey, Eddie. I'm making this contract. You sign it or don't. That's all. Who told you you had rights here? You gave them up when you took them off other people. You're with me or I'll fuck up your neat life permanently. The way you've helped to fuck up other people's. Like to the death.'
     He looked at his coffee. He looked at his newspaper. `So what would be involved?' he said.