'Gobsmacked' by nomination for award

Liam McIlvanney in his office at the University of Otago, with The Quaker. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Liam McIlvanney in his office at the University of Otago, with The Quaker. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A University of Otago academic shortlisted for a prestigious UK crime-writing award is "gobsmacked" to have his work recognised.

Stuart chair of Scottish Studies and co-director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies Prof Liam McIlvanney and Visiting Scottish Studies and Crime Fiction Prof Val McDermid - who will arrive in September and stay until mid-November - have both been shortlisted for the 2019 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

Prof McIlvanney said having his book The Quaker shortlisted was a tremendous honour.

"I was ever so slightly gobsmacked.

"There is such a wealth of talent at work in UK crime fiction at the moment, and so many heavyweight novelists in contention for this award, that I was very pleasantly surprised to see my novel make the shortlist. "

The winner will be announced on July 18.

Prof McIlvanney's book is set in Glasgow in 1969, the year he was born, and draws on the real-life story of never-caught serial murderer "Bible John".

He said Bible John had a "very vivid" place in Scottish imagination and had been a "JFK moment" for the country.

"The newspaper would sort of recycle stories," Prof McIlvanney said.

There was a detailed identikit of him produced - the country's first. There were so many reported sightings of Bible John that people who resembled the portrait were given cards by the police to say they were not the killer.

Last year the novel scooped the 2018 McIlvanney Prize, named in honour of his father, the late "godfather of tartan noir", William McIlvanney.

Prof McDermid will spend up to eight weeks a year in Dunedin at the CISS, acting as mentor to postgraduate students in the Scottish Studies and creative writing programmes.

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