Studies in Scottish Literature
William McIlvanney has written three mysteries which revolve around the Glaswegian police detective, Jack Laidlaw.1 In each McIlvanney uses his versions of the detective novel to celebrate the continuing richness and diversity of Glasgow even as he depicts the struggles of his protagonist and his fellow citizens against a spreading anomie produced by Glasgow's battered economy and Scotland's anomalous position, both politically and culturally, in the predevolution United Kingdom. The passion of McIlvanney's social mission is clear from the terms he uses to describe his work. For example, in 1989, while discussing his collection of short stories, Walking Wounded, McIlvanney described himself as a "guerrilla," someone who reports "from the front line" about the continuing 'Thatcherisation of Scotland" despite "over 50 socialist voices represent[ing] Scotland in Parliament."2 McIlvanney casts himself, in other words, as an irregular fighting an independent war in which clear boundaries and sanctioned rules of engagement are impossible. His detective novels thus can be seen as a series of investigative forays on different fronts as their author challenges the forces of reaction in both the culture of Glasgow and the culture of detective fiction itself.
Winston, Robert P. "Travelers and Tourists: Rules of Engagement in William McIlvanney's Detective Fiction." Studies in Scottish Literature 32, (2001): 117-131.