August 8, 2011

Come and Be Kilt

Phil Rickman, of the BBC Blog WalesArts, examines the genre affectionately known as "Tartan Noir."  Says Mr. Rickman in part,

This is the term invented for dark Scottish crime novels about doomed hardmen with noses broken by Glasgow kisses and arteries clogged by fried Mars bars. The street-level, socially-aware antidote to traditional upper class English crime by Agatha Christie and co.

It's all a marketing scam, of course, promoted by people who conveniently forget that, as well as breeding Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre and Stuart MacBride, Scotland is also the home of the awfully genteel, endearingly inoffensive Alexander McCall Smith whose characters make Miss Marple look hard-boiled.

But Tartan Noir really works. It's a killer brand that's sold millions of books in places a long way south of Scotland.

It seems to have begun back in the 1970s when William McInvanney, an established literary novelist, turned out a couple of intelligent thrillers featuring a Glasgow cop called Laidlaw. It never became much of a series, but it did inspire the young Ian Rankin to create a similar cop operating in Edinburgh - John Rebus.

Mr. Rickman notes that a few mystery novelists sets their works in Wales, and wants to know if the Welsh are ready for their own genre. (But what would it be called?) Read on here, MacDuffs!

No comments: