Liam McIlvanney

Liam McIlvanney teaches at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His first novel, All the Colours of the Town, is out in August.

Eilis Lacey is a young Enniscorthy woman who has never dreamed of leaving Ireland. Friary Street and Castle Street, the square and the cathedral: the grey co-ordinates of her small County Wexford town will doubtless always be with her. But this is 1950s Ireland, in which there is ‘no work for anyone . . . no matter what their qualifications’. Eilis’s father is...

That Time: Magda Szabó

Liam McIlvanney, 15 December 2005

Straightforwardly enough, The Door begins with a door. In fact, it begins with ‘The Door’, a three-page prologue – a door into the novel – in which a woman recounts a bad dream. She is standing behind the front door of her apartment building and an ambulance crew is waiting in the street. The paramedics are eager to get in – someone in the building is desperately...

About Myself: James Hogg

Liam McIlvanney, 18 November 2004

On a winter’s evening in 1803, James Hogg turned up for dinner at the home of Walter Scott. The man his host liked to call ‘the honest grunter’ was shown into the drawing-room, where a pregnant Mrs Scott was resting on a sofa. Unsure of the protocol in these toney surroundings, and deciding to take his cue from the hostess, Hogg flopped onto an adjoining sofa, smirching the...

‘Ye just battered on, that was what ye did man ye battered on, what else can ye do?’ Grim tenacity, the will to struggle on through difficult terrain, has long been a characteristic of James Kelman’s protagonists. More recently, it’s been a virtue demanded of his readers. Kelman’s last novel, Translated Accounts (2001), was a fractured political allegory in...

When the hero of Jonathan Raban’s new novel is scolded for living in a world of his ‘own construction’, the implied rebuke falls flat: this, for Raban, is the whole point of America. Raban’s travel books present America as a ‘glittering fiction’, a country shaped by the ardent imaginings of its immigrant millions and by the universal reach of its popular...

Mohocks: The House of Blackwood

Liam McIlvanney, 5 June 2003

At the tail-end of 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson was working on a novel. The book was going well but one thing was bothering him. Serial publication, he felt, might be difficult to secure, since ‘The Justice Clerk’ – it would eventually be published as Weir of Hermiston – was both ‘queer’ and ‘pretty Scotch’. Still, he reflected, there was one...

Sectarianism seldom plays any part in Scottish writing. One of the few exceptions – and the most pertinent to Liam McIlvanney’s novel – comes in Ian Rankin’s Mortal Causes...

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