What is Tartan Noir? Investigating Scotland’s dark contemporary crime fiction
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Contrary to popular belief, Tartan Noir is not a synonym for Scottish noir but a mystifying marketing label for a national literature: dark, contemporary Scottish crime fiction. As it comprises an immense diversity of writing done in such mainstream sub-genres as detective, police, and serial killer fiction, as well as actual noir, I will investigate both the contrasts and the crossovers between said sub-genres. I will show that only few of the writers who are most associated with Tartan Noir write much, or any, noir, whereas most of those who do are not commonly associated with the term. With a view to remedying this, I will discuss the novels which have most influenced the reputation of Tartan Noir alongside those which have most influenced its identity. And by showing how this literature integrates the tension between several highly charged counter concepts – such as conformity and individuality, convention and innovation, sensationalism and thoughtful social, cultural, and political commentary – I hope to demystify Tartan Noir, that is, define the term and refine its use.