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Tuesday 14 August. Denise Mina and Liam McIlvanney chaired by Stuart Kelly. @DameDeniseMina @LiamMcIlvanney @EdBookFest #edbookfest

August 15, 2018

The last session of Tuesday was at 20.45.i was in 2 minds about going to this one as I am really fortunate in having heard both authors a number off times recently.

But The Long Drop and The Quaker (links are to my reviews) are both books that have been outstanding and immediately shot to the top of my must read list. There are so many synergies between the 2 books that in the end this was a panel I could not resist.

I am so glad I went. The house was packed as we settled down to listen to Liam McIlvanney talk about his late 1960’s set novel, The Quaker, a fictional story loosely based on the Bible John murders and Denise Mina’s The Long Drop a (barely) fictionalised account of true crime murders in 1950’s Lanarkshire.



What was it, asked Stuart, that appealed about these true life crimes to both writers? Liam had grown up with the Bible John murders and was of an age where he could remember the newspaper reports and the posters of the Bible John likeness on the walls.

It was knowing that the stories were becoming legend, that Bible John once lived next door, or was your postman, so people would later whisper. At the same time, Liam was conscious of the hurt that had been caused, of the relatives still alive. So fictionalising the story made it much less personal but also freed him up to use his creativity and imagination.

Denise found herself getting carried away with the whole Peter Manuel story and not thinking until later about the ethical conundrum of dealing with true crime. Then she thought about it a great deal. Are there manners involved? How many steps back do you need to take before it’s OK to tackle this kind of story?

As Liam pointed out, these were also public stories, widely reported and discussed, not just private. So Denise’s next book is about ethical ambivalences of talking about someone’s story.

Both authors talked about the role of the city of Glasgow which features heavily in their books as a central story in its own right. Corruption is a central part of the stories they tell. Of housing policy and planning and the money made and hidden, which no-one ever talks about. Political crimes went unpunished as the poor suffered.

The population explosion created a huge need for social housing leading to the root of all evil in the city.

Discusion ranged from the impact of  Cagney movies on Glasgow gangsters to the impact of the Bolshevik revolution on Glasgow housing planning to giving a voice to voiceless women.

This was a conversation that sparked and crackled, aided and abetted by Stuart Kelly who got the best out of both authors.

A terrific evening, so well spent. Read the books, Go and see the authors at Bloody Scotland.

  1. Sounds like an interesting talk. I’m a big fan of Denise Mina and I’ve just discovered Liam McIlvanney via The Quaker (which I loved).


  2. It is a fabulous book. And the synergies between the two booksmade for a fascinating conversation.


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