HIS books have been compared to a fine malt whisky, the most popular earning him the title of “the Godfather Of Tartan Noir”.

William McIlvanney changed the face of Scottish crime fiction when he created the philosophical detective DI Laidlaw, solving gritty cases in 1970s Glasgow.

Three books were published, but one handwritten manuscript remained tantalisingly unfinished when the author died in December 2015 at the age of 79.

In news that will delight his fans, it has been revealed his final work will be published next year after being completed by Ian Rankin, the author McIlvanney’s partner said he would have chosen himself to write his final words.

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The Dark Remain, the story of Laidlaw’s first case, written by 
William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin, will be published by Canongate on September 2.

In the early 1980s, Rankin took Laidlaw as inspiration for his own detective, John Rebus, a series of 25 novels that have led to him becoming the UK’s number one-selling crime writer.

When McIlvanney first met the Edinburgh-based author and heard he was writing crime fiction, he inscribed a copy of his Whitbread prize-winning novel Docherty with the words “Good luck with the Edinburgh Laidlaw”.

According to the publisher, Cannongate, the partnership has resulted in writing that is “sharper than a gangster’s blade”.

Rankin said: “It was an honour to be invited to complete Willie’s final novel but the invitation presented me with a huge responsibility. 

“Willie is a hero of mine, a writer I hold in the highest regard. 

“This needed to be his vision and his voice, his Laidlaw and his Glasgow. But what a thrill to spend time in Willie’s world. I hope I’ve done him justice in bringing it to life again.”

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Siobhan Lynch, partner of McIlvanney said: “I feel overjoyed to be able to share Willie’s last words with his beloved readers and introduce Laidlaw to a new generation. Ian is the writer Willie would have chosen.”

Born in Kilmarnock, North Ayrshire, in 1936, the son of a miner, the Glasgow University graduate left behind a body of work that included six novels, two collections of poetry and a Bafta-winning screenplay. 

McIlvanney’s teaching career spanned the years 1960-75: first at Irvine Royal Academy and then at Greenwood Academy, Dreghorn, where he was promoted to the rank of assistant headteacher. 

During this period, he married and had two children, Siobhan and Liam, who both became academics. The marriage broke up in the late 1970s. 

For many years he lived in Glasgow’s south side with his partner, Siobhan Lynch, a primary school teacher. 

Canongate Books, which republished McIlvanney’s books in 2013, said it was proud to have brought together the two writers for a “historic partnership”.

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Publishing director Francis Bickmore said: “The Dark Remains is history in the making. McIlvanney broke the mould with Detective Laidlaw, showing millions of fans the way to a new kind of crime fiction. 

“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. 

“Thanks to the Estate’s discovery of the handwritten manuscript, we wondered if a collaboration beyond the grave might be possible. 

“It had to be with Rankin, a writer Willie so admired 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 

“These kind of collaborations happen once in a lifetime and Canongate is immensely proud to be able to bring this book to fans of Laidlaw and Rebus in September 2021.”