The Dark Remains, coming next year: Ian Rankin completes William McIlvanney’s final novel

5 December 2020

As reported in the Guardian, we are delighted that next year we will publish The Dark Remains, the final novel by the legendary William McIlvanney, completed by none other than Ian Rankin.

McIlvanney’s trilogy of novels featuring his detective Jack Laidlaw fundamentally changed crime fiction, influencing a generation of writers including Rankin. When the two men first met, McIlvanney was signing books at the Edinburgh Book Festival and Rankin was a fan in the queue, and working on his first Rebus book. He mentioned it to McIlvanney, who inscribed his copy “Good luck with the Edinburgh Laidlaw.”

When McIlvanney died in 2015, he left behind the unfinished manuscript of The Dark Remains. Siobhan Lynch, his widow, approached us at Canongate, and Rankin was recruited to finish the book. Lynch has said, “Ian is the writer Willie would have chosen”.

Rankin took the job extremely seriously: “I’m a huge fan so I didn’t want to do him a disservice. I wanted the book to be as good as it possibly could be, as good as a Laidlaw novel. I owe him a huge debt, as pretty much every Scottish crime writer does – he’s the godfather, so you want it to be right. You want it to be his world, his story and his voice.”

The Dark Remains will publish on 2 September 2021.

Publishing director Francis Bickmore said: “In his later years, Willie and I talked about his work on one of Laidlaw’s early cases. But death robbed him of the chance to finish it. And to our delight, Ian felt this was one case he couldn’t turn down. The result is gobsmacking. It’s Laidlaw at his very best – white-knuckle plotting, real-life complexity and writing sharper than a gangster’s blade.”