William McIlvanney wants to pen four more books

NOVELIST William McIlvanney hopes to write “three or four new things” before the end of his career as he prepares for the screening of a documentary about his life and influences.

McIlvanney says he was inspired by the wave of political activism which swept Scotland. Picture: CONNECTfilm
McIlvanney says he was inspired by the wave of political activism which swept Scotland. Picture: CONNECTfilm
McIlvanney says he was inspired by the wave of political activism which swept Scotland. Picture: CONNECTfilm

The 78-year-old still has a compulsion to write and said he has ideas “that matter very much” to him. The author of the Laidlaw trilogy and numerous other Glasgow-based works is the focus of the film William McIlvanney: Living With Words to be screened at the Glasgow Film Festival today.

The re-publication of some of his best-known novels has introduced him to a new generation of readers and he hopes to add to his body of work.

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He said: “I get shifty when I talk about it but there are three or four things I’d like to write before I ‘cash in’, but whether I will or not I don’t know.

“I write from compulsion. I have to generate a compulsion – I have probably four ideas that matter to me very much and I hope to realise them, but if you’re a betting man don’t put a bet on it. Just wait and see.

“There’s things I’ve started – I’m a great starter, not so good at finishing. I’ve started several things and would like to write maybe three of four things that matter to me.”

The wave of political activism that swept Scotland is something that has caught the attention of McIlvanney and could influence future work.

Part of the film shows the writer visiting George Square on the evening of the referendum vote, and the scenes captured his imagination. He said: “As an outsider I’ve always been politically interested and I suppose it connects up with the writing because it’s a celebration of Scottish life. I get involved because I care, not because I think I’m particularly well informed or anything.

“I voted Yes so there was an element of disappointment in the result but I went into George Square on the night of the referendum and it was sensational.

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“It was full of song and laughter and young people. I thought, whatever the result, the referendum animated young Scots to such an extent, and that was marvellous.

“We may not have won the vote but in a way I think we won the argument because it animated so many people. We filmed a bit for this documentary and I was so glad to have gone there, not for the film but just for the experience. The liveliness and vivacity of the people was just terrific. I think it animated politics in a manner that will not just go away.”

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The 30-minute film, which will also be broadcast on BBC Two on Friday, attempts to trace the influences of McIlvanney’s characters.

“As far as I know, they [the film-makers] wanted to catch people in places that had meant something to me and played a part in the writing as well.

“There were some moments when speaking to my brother Hughie, where it gets down to the nitty-gritty of what family meant to us and the origins of our desire to write. There were others – a friend who was a policeman in Glasgow – we spoke to him in a pub and I thought that got near the bone of things, because I found him, Robbie McInnes, very helpful early on in my career.

“Along with another officer, who is unfortunately dead now, they knew Glasgow in a way I didn’t and they took me round places, making me feel competent to write about the city.”

He added: “It’s a bizarre experience looking at yourself on screen. While making it, they told me it would be shown as part of the Glasgow Film Festival and I thought, ‘Aww naw, nobody will come’, but apparently the audience has reached a respectable size, so it might not be too embarrassing.”