Archive for Glasgow

the dark remains [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2021 by xi'an

When I left Birmingham a month ago, I spotted The Dark Remains, a book by Ian Rankin and the late William McIlvanney featuring Laidlaw, a unique Glaswegian detective featuring in his other books. Which I of course bought on the spot. (Ironically, along with the latest Ishiguro!) The book had been started by McIlvanney but left unfinished, which is where Rankin took over, as a big fan of McIlvanney, the designated father of tartan noir. This is a prequel to the other three Laidlaw novels, taking place in the early years of Laidlaw, at a time he was still living with his family, and it starts as a brewing war between two Glasgow gangs, with a fantastic immersion in the Glasgow of the 1970’s. The conclusion of the story is somewhat disappointing but the atmosphere and the reflection on the attitudes of the era are making it a great book. I actually stopped searching for Rankin’s touch almost from the start.

As an aside, the meaning of the title is unclear to me: is the Dark that remains or are the remains dark..? Reading from the Scotsman, it seems this is a typical French miscomprehension!


Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2021 by xi'an

The Quaker [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2021 by xi'an

I ordered The Quaker, a book by Liam McIlvanney mostly because Liam is the son of WIlliam McIlvanney, whose Glasgow’s Laidlaw trilogy I found stunning. I was intrigued by the attempt at following in his father’s Tartan Noir steps. To make the link stronger this book won the 2018 (William) McIlvanney Prize for crime book! While there are many similarities between the stories, if only because they both take place in Glasgow in the 1960’s, where slums were gradually demolished to become high rises (themselves demolished much later in one of Ian Rankin’s stories, if in Edinburgh), where the police was partly corrupted by local gangsters, and where (im- and e-) migration was spinning the demographics of the city, the styles are different and The Quaker does not read as a clever pastiche. It is definitely a unique and brilliant book, from the vivid depiction of the Glasgow of these times (possibly helped by the fact that many locations were familiar to me from my several visits at the University of Glasgow), to the pretty convincing plot, to the psychological depths of many (male) characters. The women in the story are indeed mostly victims of the serial killer or witnesses, possibly towards reflecting the state of gender inequality in the 1960’s (as far as I remember there were more women at the fore in WIlliam’s books), with the inclusion of a victim of the Magdalene asylums. The outlying nature of the main detective is another feature common to father and son: while McCormack does not carry philosophy books to work, he remains apart from the other detectives, including a secret that threatens both the case and his career.

parking riddle

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, R, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2020 by xi'an

The Riddler of this week had a quick riddle: if one does want to avoid parallel parking a car over a six spot street, either the first spot is available or two consecutive spots are free. What is the probability this happens with 4 other cars already parked (at random)?

While a derivation by combinatorics easily returns 9/15 as the probability to fail to park, a straightforward R code does as well

  for(t in 1:1e6){


> round(choose(6,2)*F/1e6)
[1] 10

strange loyalties [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2020 by xi'an

This book by William McIlvarnney is the third and last one in the Laidlaw investigation series and the most original of the three as far as I am concerned… For it is more an inner quest than a crime investigation, as the detective is seeking an explanation to the accidental death of his brother as well as the progressive deterioration of their relation, while trying to make sense of his own life and his relation to women. It is thus as far a crime novel as it is possible, although there are criminals involved. And Laidlaw cannot separate his “job” from his personal life, meaning he does investigate on his free time the death of his brother.  It is entirely written in a first-person perspective, which makes the reading harder and slower in my case. But an apt conclusion to the trilogy, rather than being pulled into finer and finer threads as other detective stories. Brilliant (like the light on Skye during the rain).

“Life was only in the living of it. How you act and what you are and what you do and how you be were the only substance. They didn’t last either. But while you were here, they made what light there was – the wick that threads the candle-grease of time. His light was out but here I felt I could almost smell the smoke still drifting from its snuffing.”

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