Ian Rankin’s salute to his mentor

“Rien que le noir” (The Dark Remains), by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin, translated from English (Scotland) by Fabienne Duvigneau, Rivages, “Black”, 288 p., €20, digital €16.

August 1985, Edinburgh Book Festival, Scotland. A 25-year-old student queues to exchange a few words with William McIlvanney (1936-2015). He is the acclaimed author of Docherty (1975; Rivages, 1999), a social novel about the condition of minors in the early 20th centuryY century – environment from which it comes. Following laidlaw – last name of its protagonist – and The Tony Veitch Papers; two charcoal-black crime novels, set in Glasgow, exuding misery and violence. In front of William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin confesses that he is his model and that he intends to decline it in this very city. “Good luck with the Edinburgh Laidlaw”dedication, then, by the writer on the copy, often laminated, that his admirer brought him.

Two years after this encounter, Ian Rankin publishes the first volume of his prolific crime series: The Edinburgh Strangler (Paperback, 2004). John Rebus was born, his recurring hero. “Laidlaw’s books laid the foundation for contemporary Scottish thrillers, recalls Ian Rankin, interviewed by “Le Monde des livres”. “Willie” was a literary writer, not a successful novelist. He was interested in major themes and major moral questions. He used detective fiction to explore Scottish society and the human condition. »

The effervescent “Black Tartan”

Since then, other Scottish authors – Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Christopher Brookmyre – have conquered readers around the world and, in turn, publicly repaid their debt to this pioneer of realism. Following him, they inscribed their thrillers in the American tradition of Lasted (“tough guy”) instead of cozy crime in English, this cozy journey to solving a sophisticated teatime puzzle. The Scottish towns and countryside have thus come to life, anchored, more or less, in the present day. McIlvanney earned a nickname: the “Godfather of Black Tartan.” Which corresponded more to an effervescence than to an organized movement.

Over the years, McIlvanney also gained notoriety, whose books were long unavailable across the Channel. Thanks to the admiration of publishers, they were eventually republished in both the English-speaking and French-speaking worlds. Indication of this rebirth, the reference made by Pierre Lemaitre, together with James Ellroy and Emile Gaboriau, in Clean work (The Mask, 2006).

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