The Abridged Laidlaw
The Abridged Laidlaw
By:, Categories: Words & Images, 6 comments



Glasgow gave birth to the original ‘troubled detective’, as Jack Laidlaw laid the blueprint for Rebus and Co. to follow – but award-winning author William McIlvanney became the forgotten man of tartan noir. Now, like a good cold case, some 40 years after the first of his Laidlaw trilogy was published, he’s back from the wilderness – and by accident rather than by design.


The story goes that McIlvanney was receiving less and less royalty payments each year that he thought nobody was buying any of his Laidlaw books any more, so decided that was that and he’d had a good run. He then discovered, by accident, that the reason no one was buying his books was because the publishing company he originally had been signed to, had decided – in its infinite wisdom – to let it go long out of print without telling him.


McIlvanney casually mentioned this as smalltalk while a guest at a literary function dinner – only to discover that sitting across from him was Jamie Byng, the head honcho of Canongate Books. That week, Canongate had signed up McIlvanney and immediately set about reprinting his classics – not only re-introducing it to a new audience, but also for the first time doing a big sell of Laidlaw to the American market.


The new front-cover to the eponymously named Laidlaw, sees one of Jack’s Glasgow villains making a mad dash for it across the Carlton Bridge that spans the Clyde, which we’ve tried to reproduce in today’s photo. Fitting, really, because, now like McIlvanney’s books becoming popular in America, the wonderful arch pylons of the Suspension Bridge proved to be the calling card to America for Glasgow architect and chartered engineer Alexander Kirkland (1824-92), who went on to become the Commissioner of Public Buildings in Chicago.


Leica M6 Classic & 35mm Summicron pre-asph
Kodak Tri-X (@200)
HC-110 (Dil. B – 7 min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan



  • I will be buying his books, John. Great photo too.

    • Mike, You won't regret it - fantastic crime novels that also explores the more seedier side to Glasgow. First read them when they came out in the late 1970s - now re-reading again after I got them for a gift for a friend in the US (she had to wait till I finished reading them - some friend I make, eh?). They haven't been diminished with time - if anything, much better than I thought. Cheers, John

  • Hmmm,sounds familiar...
    An American reading hi brow Glaswegian who done its
    Loved it !
    That 35 cron did Grand ...

  • Takes me back - worked in Carlton place around 1990 for 6 years or so - crossed that bridge many a time, - bags of character,often for pie and peas from wee pub at town centre end, Think it was called Morrisons which was full of old guys who probably could tell a tell or two.

    • Alex, those old guys are probably still sitting in the same seats and telling the same tales!

  • thanks for the Glasgow tour, John -- and the Laidlaw recommend -- the books now come alive. I liked Rebus, but Laidlow is the best on so many levels.