Crime Author Ian Rankin describes how the late William McElwain’s last novel about Glasgow in 1972 was written to complete “Avoiding Epidemics.”
Rankin, 61, completed The Dark Remains during the lockdown – the last of McLean’s Glasgow-set detective novels, including Jack Lidlaw.
The Rebes author was asked to complete McLaughlin’s last work with a prescription from his widow, Siobhan Lynch.
Restricted to his home in Edinburgh, Rankin decided to immerse himself in Lidlaw. World Attempts to learn the style of Mac Alvani as well as Glasgow in the early 1970s
It relied on the National Library of Archives. Scotland, Old photos and maps of the city, and Mac Alvani’s own words to help revive the author’s last story.
The book will be launched today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Rankin said: “I re-read all of Lidla’s novels three or four times and tried to learn how to write them. Style So that I can copy it.
“I did as much as I could in Willie’s Glasgow.
“Hopefully this is his Glasgow. He painted a picture of the city and I just stuck to it.
“He wrote in his notes some good explanatory things that I was able to use.
“Fortunately, the Scottish National Library opened on time for me to go in and see the Glasgow Herald.
“I figured out a year’s worth of them for 1972 – all I knew was that the book was compiled at the time because the notes referred to The Godfather, which was released this year.
“For me, writing about Glasgow in 1972 was a beautiful and epidemic.
“It simply came to our notice then.
“Even though it was a world of criminals, there were no cell phones and drugs would not be a curse yet.
“She helped me a lot last year.
“I was writing all the time during epidemics.
“I can live in an imaginary world that understood in a way that the real world did not understand.
“It simply came to our notice then.
“I had to remind myself that no one in the house had a cell phone or a computer.
“Pubs were closed a long time ago and you couldn’t find one. Drink it Sunday until you are at the hotel.
“That’s why I compile my books right now – they’re so easy to write.”
Rankin first met McFarlane at the Book Fair in 1985, shortly after he began work on the first Rebus novel.
At the time, Rankin said he had told McElwain that the book was “like Ledla but set to be set in Edinburgh.”
And he was happy to be asked by publishers Cannogate to remove The Dark Remnants because the author had so much influence on him.
Rankin said: “Canungate told me she had a manuscript that Seobhan had typed and collected in her handwritten note and she wanted to know if I thought it was enough to make a novel.
“I said I would take a look at it.
“It was amazing to me – I didn’t hear anything.
“My first job was really archeology, going through 100 sheets of paper and trying to figure out what that meant.
“I told Canoegate that I thought if they could do X, Y and Z they could make a novel out of it.
“Then he came back to me and said that Seoban wanted me to do this.
“I don’t think I’ve tried it with any other writer, but since I’m a big fan of Willie and it had such an impact on me, I thought I’d give it up.
“But I told him, ‘No promise, if I can’t catch his style, I won’t do it.’
“It was very important to me that this book was a MacArthur – his voice, his world and his character.”
He added: “It was a very interesting process to go through his notes because I was inside his head.
“Sometimes he was a little confused. Because he knew some things, he didn’t have to write them down.
“I just wanted to do him justice, I wanted to convince him somehow.
“I wanted new readers to find it and I wanted old readers to rediscover it.
“Hopefully, if people come to this book, they will look for other Ledla novels and then other books.”
“The best scenario I can think of is that a new generation of readers gets the job done.”