Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Tartan Noir by Len Wanner

Tartan Noir by Len Wanner, April 2015, 256 pages, Freight Books, ISBN: 1910449083

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This book, which calls itself "the Definitive Guide to Scottish Crime Fiction", is simply wonderful. A beautiful, well-written assessment of what Tartan Noir actually is and how it came to be given that name. All too frequently Crime Fiction is described as not being 'proper' literature, that it is formulaic, simplistic and not worthy for consideration of things such as the Booker Prize. In complete contrast, therefore, what a delight to read an intellectual assessment of crime fiction that gives it, according to William McIlvanney, "deeper significance than is normally accorded".

TARTAN NOIR is divided into four chapters – each of which consider a different sub-genre of Scottish crime fiction; detective novels, police novels, serial killer novels and Noir novels. Each of these chapters thoroughly analyses its topic and includes an absorbing examination of ten different novels that fit within its remit. Throughout his writing, Wanner invites us to engage with what we are reading and to think about things for ourselves – which is one of the many excellent aspects of this highly-polished work that I love. TARTAN NOIR is so full of information that it must have been no small undertaking to produce and deserves to be widely known and read. At the end of the book you know exactly why Ian Rankin has become known as the King of Tartan Noir and why this isn't necessarily the truth. You will also have a very clear idea, maybe for the first time, of the distinctions between Tartan Noir and Scottish Noir, along with a whole heap of ideas of new books to read!

I loved every single page of this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to you. Don't skip bits! Read the whole thing! My favourite chapter was the final one. I was delighted to see an extended discussion of Allan Guthrie's "Slammer" – my all-time favourite book – and to finally have a name to put to the genre that I like best; Scottish Noir. TARTAN NOIR is a must-read for every fan of Scottish Crime Fiction. You will love it!

Extremely highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, July 2015


Anonymous said...

Ooh I'll have to get this! Len Wanner knows his stuff. I think Ian Rankin's inclusion of what's happening in Scotland - the G8 at Gleneagles, the referendum, etc, plus social issues of the day, added to the political, makes for a "state of the nation" novel for Scotland as well as crime fiction.

ktford said...

Best access for stateside readers..followers??!

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Oh Tartan Noir sounds like I something I would enjoy! Thanks for such a comprehensive review. I was going to buy the e-book but £8.99 still seems a wee bit dear for an ebook, so maybe i'll splash out on the paperback! Thanks again :)