Award-winning author Ian Rankin has said it was an “incredible honour” to help finish William McIlvanney’s unfinished novel.
The author of the Detective Laidlaw novels had died in 2015 before finishing the manuscript for The Dark Remains so his widow had it sent to Ian Rankin who happily accepted the challenge.
The new book, now finished and co-authored by both men, was launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Rankin and McIlvanney first met in the 1980s.
Rankin said: “When I started to sift through the original book, the notes he had left, it was a bit higgledy piggledy.
“There were two or three books in there which he was contemplating but one of them he had actually made a good start on, which was The Dark Remains.”
Rankin thought at first he was only meant to give advice on how the manuscript could be finished but was shocked when he was asked to actually complete the novel.
“That was when I took a sharp intake of breath and thought, do I really want to get into this?,” he said.
“He was such a hero of mine and his style was so different from mine, I thought can I do it?”.
Soon Rankin started to work on the novel and describes the process of capturing McIlvanney’s voice and rhythm as an “act of ventriloquism”.
Rankin spent months re-reading McIlvanney’s novels, and researching 1972 Glasgow street layouts, culture, and crime gangs during the COVID-19 lockdown which he described as “a lovely escape”.
The author said the biggest thrill came, however, when he sent off the finished manuscript to McIlvanney’s widow Siobhan.
He explained: “She wrote me a letter to say how much she enjoyed it. She couldn’t see the join and said it was as if he was in the room with her again, she could hear his voice.”