Monday, February 17, 2014
Review of The Papers of Tony Veitch by William McIlvanney (Canongate, 1983/2013)
I’ve only read two William McIlvanney books so far, but he’s quickly become one of my favourite authors. Rather than telling linear tales in workmanlike prose that relies on melodrama or fast-paced action sequences to keep the reader’s attention, McIlvanney creates a layered, thoughtful story, rich in observational and philosophical asides told through evocative prose that has a nice cadence and vividly conveys the local dialect. It is a world full of greys, rather than black and whites, with Laidlaw a man of contradictions -- obsessive to the point of alienating colleagues in doing the right thing in his work, but failing in his home life by cheating on his wife. McIllvanney infuses the tale with an underlying pathos and world weariness, and conveys well the sense of place and communities of Glasgow in the early 1980s. The result is a very well told story with three dimensional characters and an intricate plot. I’m looking forward to reading the final book in the Laidlaw trilogy -- Strange Loyalties.