Famous Scottish Novelists

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Scotland has been the home of several renowned novelists, writers and literary giants who have contributed much to the country’s literary landscape through their works. They have been masters at their work and have come up with some of the world’s best-selling novels that every reading aficionado wants to get his/her hands on. Interestingly, Scottish novelists have not limited themselves to but a single genre. They have written extensively on various genres such as fiction, non-fiction, drama, romance, satire, tragedy, comedy and so on. Some have even fused two genres to come up with a novel that has kept the readers hooked on to the book like glue. Novel writing is complex for it involves various characters, an intricate plot, some nerve-wrecking events/follow-ups and a grand finale. Unless you have a deep passion for it, writing a novel can turn into a nightmare and your final outcome as hogwash. Patience and perseverance are also strong foundations on which a good novel stands. There have been numerous Scottish writers who have not just shown all of the above, but reflected the same on their novels as well. Iain Banks, Sir Walter Scott, Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.L Kennedy, James Kelman, Denise Mina, John Buchan are some of the prominent Scottish novelists who have gained worldwide fame. Read more about their life and their works through this write-up.
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 1 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(British Writer Who Created the Character of Sherlock Holmes)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
4
Birthdate: May 22, 1859
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Scotland
Died: July 7, 1930
Physician-turned-author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is remembered for creating the iconic character Sherlock Holmes. He wrote four novels and 56 short stories on Holmes’s detective adventures and also created the characters Professor Challenger and Brigadier Gerard. A sports lover, he had dabbled in cricket, football, and bodybuilding, too.
 2 
Robert Louis Stevenson
(Author of Famous Novels: 'Treasure Island' and 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde')
Robert Louis Stevenson
4
Birthdate: November 13, 1850
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 3, 1894

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish travel writer, poet, and novelist. A popular writer in his lifetime, Stevenson went about traveling widely and writing prolifically even as he suffered from bronchial trouble; his will power and love for writing won the hearts of many other writers. In 2018, he was ranked as the world's 26th-most-translated author.

 3 
David McCallum
5
Birthdate: September 19, 1933
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

David McCallum is a Scottish musician and actor who gained recognition for portraying Illya Kuryakin in the popular spy fiction TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He gained international recognition for playing Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the action police procedural TV series NCIS. David McCallum has also contributed as a writer, publishing a novel titled Once a Crooked Man.

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Sir James Matthew Barrie
4
Birthdate: May 9, 1860
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Died: June 19, 1937

Sir James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish playwright and novelist. He is credited and remembered for creating the famous fictional character, Peter Pan. In the 1922 New Year Honours, Barrie was made a member of the Order of Merit. Before his death, he gifted the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children with the rights of his Peter Pan works.

 5 
Walter Scott
(Novelist and Poet known for his Works Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Lady of the Lake)
Walter Scott
6
Birthdate: August 15, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: September 21, 1832

Walter Scott was a Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and playwright. Scott's ability as a writer and his knowledge of history made him a pioneering figure in the formation of the historical novel genre. An influential writer, many of his works remain classics of Scottish as well as English-language literature. Scott was admired by other prominent writers like Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

 6 
Irvine Welsh
(Scottish Novelist and Playwright Best Known for His 1993 Novel 'Trainspotting')
Irvine Welsh
5
Birthdate: September 27, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland

Best known for his cult novel Trainspotting, which depicted the lives of Scottish heroin addicts and was made into a film by Danny Boyle, Scottish author Irvine Welsh has also written in the Edinburgh Scots dialect. He also boasts of an MBA degree and has worked in his country’s housing department.

 7 
Alistair Maclean
(One of the Best-Selling Fiction Authors of All Time)
Alistair Maclean
3
Birthdate: April 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland
Died: February 2, 1987

Alistair Maclean was a Scottish novelist best remembered for writing popular adventure stories. Having sold more than 150 million copies, Alistair Maclean is widely regarded as one of the best-selling fiction authors. Many of his works, including Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra, and The Guns of Navarone, have been made into popular films.

 8 
Iain Banks
(Scottish Novelist and Science Fiction Writer)
Iain Banks
4
Birthdate: February 16, 1954
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dunfermline, Scotland
Died: June 9, 2013

While he began writing at age 11, Scottish author Iain Banks first gained fame with his first novel, The Wasp Factory. Known for his sci-fi tales, he has also been featured on various BBC radio and TV shows. He has also been associated with theater and is quite vocal about political issues.

 9 
A. J. Cronin
(Scottish Novelist Best Known for His Novel 'The Citadel')
A. J. Cronin
3
Birthdate: July 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cardross, Scotland
Died: January 6, 1981
A. J. Cronin was a Scottish novelist and physician best remembered for his 1937 novel The Citadel. The novel, which received the National Book Award in 1937, helped inspire the creation of the National Health Service. Many of his books, including The Citadel, have been adapted to films. His novella Country Doctor inspired a TV series titled Dr. Finlay's Casebook.
 10 
James Boswell
(Best Known for His Biography of His Friend and Older Contemporary the English Writer 'Samuel Johnson')
James Boswell
3
Birthdate: October 29, 1740
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: May 19, 1795

Best known for his biography of his friend Samuel Johnson, 18th-century biographer and diarist James Boswell was also a qualified lawyer. Know for his reckless lifestyle and his trysts with prostitutes, he had contracted gonorrhea and had also fathered many children, including two illegitimate ones.

 11 
Peter May
(journalist, writer)
Peter May
3
Birthdate: December 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glasgow

Glasgow-born Scottish author Peter May first gained fame for his novel The Reporter, which was later made into the TV series The Standard. He is also known for his China Thrillers and The Enzo Files series. He is now based in France and is married to Scottish playwright Janice Hally.

 12 
Ali Smith
(Scottish Author, Playwright, Academic and Journalist)
Ali Smith
3
Birthdate: August 24, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Inverness, Scotland

Born to working-class parents in Scotland, Ali Smith grew up to earn a PhD from the University of Cambridge. While teaching at the University of Strathclyde, she developed chronic fatigue and took a break to write. Known for books such as Autumn, she often collaborates with her partner Sarah Wood.

 13 
Josephine Tey
(Author Known for Her Novel ‘The Daughter of Time')
Josephine Tey
3
Birthdate: July 25, 1896
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Inverness, Scotland
Died: February 13, 1952

Elizabeth Mackintosh, better known by her pseudonym, Josephine Tey, was a physical education teacher before becoming a full-time author. She first tasted success with The Man in the Queue, a detective novel written as Gordon Daviot. Her work A Shilling for Candles was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock.

 14 
Muriel Spark
(Writer Best Known for Her Satire and Wit with Which the Serious Themes of Her Novels Are Presented)
Muriel Spark
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: April 13, 2006

Known for her novels such as Memento Mori and The Driver’s Seat, Scottish author Muriel Spark was also one of the rare female editors of her time when she was associated with the Poetry Review. Though born to a Jewish father, she later converted to Catholicism.

 15 
Andrew Lang
(Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic)
Andrew Lang
3
Birthdate: March 31, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Selkirk
Died: July 20, 1912

Best known for his collections of folklore, fairy tales, and legends, Scottish author and Merton College fellow Andrew Lang was also an avid historian and anthropologist who coined the term psychical research. His The World of Homer and his translations of Homer’s works remain invaluable to Homerian students.

 16 
Tobias Smollett
(Scottish Poet and Author Best Known for Picaresque Novels)
Tobias Smollett
3
Birthdate: March 19, 1721
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Renton, Scotland
Died: September 17, 1771

Best known for his picaresque novels such as The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett was born into a family of lawyers and soldiers and initially attended medical training. Some believe he quit university without a degree, while it is also said he had served as a navy surgeon.

 17 
Compton Mackenzie
(Scottish Writer of Fiction, Biography, Histories and a Memoir)
Compton Mackenzie
3
Birthdate: January 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Died: November 30, 1972

Though born into a famous family of theater actors and managers, Compton Mackenzie turned to writing in his 20s. Known for works such as Greek Memories, he also gained fame as a Scottish nationalist and played a major role in the formation of the Scottish National Party.

 18 
Denise Mina
(Crime writer)
Denise Mina
3
Birthdate: August 21, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: East Kilbride, Scotland

While she initially did a number of odd jobs, including working as a bar maid, Denise Mina later entered law school, eventually working on mental illness and also teaching criminology. She misused her PhD grant and penned an award-winning novel, Garnethill, instead. She then became a master of crime novels.

 19 
Alasdair Gray
(Former Writer best known for his surreal atmospheric novel Lanark (1981))
Alasdair Gray
3
Birthdate: December 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: December 29, 2019

Alasdair Gray was a Scottish artist and writer whose works have inspired several other prominent writers like Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Janice Galloway, Chris Kelso, and A. L. Kennedy. His first novel Lanark, which was published in 1981, is viewed as a watershed in the history of Scottish fiction. He also painted murals, including one at the Hillhead subway station.

 20 
Naomi Mitchison
(Scottish Novelist and Poet)
Naomi Mitchison
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Birthdate: November 1, 1897
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: January 11, 1999

Known for authoring books such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman and The Conquered, Naomi Mitchison was also a driven socialist. She served as an advisor to Botswana’s Bakgatla tribe and had also been a farmer. Honored with numerous awards and honorary doctorates, she lived till age 101.

 21 
John Galt
(Novelist)
John Galt
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Birthdate: May 2, 1779
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: April 11, 1839

John Galt was a Scottish entrepreneur, novelist, and social and political commentator. Often referred to as the first English-language political novelist, Galt wrote extensively on issues pertaining to the Industrial Revolution. John Galt is also known as the father of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, who went on to become one of the fathers of the Canadian Confederation.

 22 
Margaret Oliphant Oliphant
(Novelist and Historical Writer)
Margaret Oliphant Oliphant
2
Birthdate: April 4, 1828
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wallyford, Scotland
Died: June 20, 1897
Though a talented writer since childhood, Margaret Oliphant Oliphant started her professional writing career as a means to provide for her family after her husband’s death, she later gained fame as one of the most prominent Scottish historical authors. She is best remembered for The Chronicles of Carlingford.
 23 
Edwin Muir
(Scottish Poet, Novelist and Translator Known for His Deeply Felt and Vivid Poetry Written in Plain Language)
Edwin Muir
2
Birthdate: May 15, 1887
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Deerness, Orkney, Scotland
Died: January 3, 1959

Edwin Muir was a Scottish novelist, poet, and translator best remembered for his vivid and deeply felt poetry written with few stylistic preoccupations. A prolific translator, Muir was honored with the prestigious Johann-Heinrich-Voss Translation Award in 1958.

 24 
Eric Temple Bell
(Mathematician, Historian of mathematics, Novelist, Writer, Science fiction writer)
Eric Temple Bell
2
Birthdate: February 7, 1883
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Peterhead
Died: December 21, 1960

Born to a Scottish factor, mathematician Eric Temple Bell spent most of his life in the U.S. The Stanford alumnus contributed to the analytic number theory and also taught math at institutes such as Caltech. He also penned sci-fi novels such as The Time Stream as John Taine.

 25 
Helen MacInnes
2
Birthdate: October 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland,United Kingdom
Died: September 30, 1985
 26 
George Mackay Brown
(Scottish Poet, Author and Dramatist With a Distinctly Orcadian Character)
George Mackay Brown
2
Birthdate: October 17, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Stromness, Orkney, Scotland
Died: April 13, 1996

Born to an Orkney postman, Scottish poet George Mackay Brown was known for reflecting the Orkneyan life through his works. Apart from releasing poetry collections such as Loaves and Fishes, he also penned many short stories and the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Beside the Ocean of Time.

 27 
R.M. Ballantyne
2
Birthdate: April 24, 1825
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: February 8, 1894
 28 
J.I.M. Stewart
(Novelist)
J.I.M. Stewart
2
Birthdate: September 30, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: November 12, 1994
 29 
Neil M. Gunn
(Novelist)
Neil M. Gunn
2
Birthdate: November 8, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland
Died: January 15, 1973
 30 
Nigel Tranter
2
Birthdate: November 23, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: January 9, 2000
Hugh Henry Brackenridge
1
Birthdate: 1748 AD
Birthplace: Campbeltown, Scotland
Died: June 25, 1816
 32 
Lesley Lokko
(Architect)
Lesley Lokko
1
Birthdate: 1964 AD
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland

Born to a Scottish mother and a Ghanaian father, Lesley Lokko grew up to be not just an architect but also an educator and an author. Her written works deal with themes such as politics, urbanism, and racial identity. After her debut novel, Sundowners, became a bestseller, she penned several other novels.

 33 
John Davidson
(Scottish poet)
John Davidson
1
Birthdate: April 11, 1857
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Barrhead, Scotland
Died: March 23, 1909

John Davidson was a Scottish poet, novelist, and playwright best remembered for his ballads. A prolific writer, Davidson's work influenced several Modernist poets like Wallace Stevens and Hugh MacDiarmid. John Davidson's financial troubles as well as mental and physical health problems culminated in his suicide by drowning on 23 March 1909 at the age of 51.

 34 
John Gibson Lockhart
1
Birthdate: July 14, 1794
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wishaw, Scotland
Died: November 25, 1854
 35 
Iain Crichton Smith
(Scottish Poet and Novelist)
Iain Crichton Smith
1
Birthdate: January 1, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: October 15, 1998

Iain Crichton Smith was a Scottish novelist and poet best remembered for his 1968 novel Consider the Lilies. Before starting his career as a full-time writer, Smith worked as a teacher; he taught in places like Dumbarton, Oban, and Clydebank from 1952 to 1977. Also a translator, Iain Crichton Smith translated some of Sorley Maclean's work from Gaelic to English.  

 36 
Henry Mackenzie
1
Birthdate: August 26, 1745
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: January 14, 1831
 37 
Allan Cunningham
(Poet, Author)
Allan Cunningham
1
Birthdate: December 7, 1784
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dalswinton, Scotland
Died: October 30, 1842

Allan Cunningham was a Scottish author and poet best remembered for his immense contribution to the London Magazine during its salad days in the 1820s. A prolific songwriter, Cunningham also contributed to Eugenius Roche's Literary Recreations. In addition to his poems and songs, Allan Cunningham also wrote novels and biographies of popular figures like Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Blake.

 38 
Susan Edmonstone Ferrier
1
Birthdate: September 2, 1782
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: November 5, 1854
 39 
George MacBeth
(Scottish Poet and Novelist)
George MacBeth
1
Birthdate: January 19, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shotts, Scotland
Died: February 16, 1992

George MacBeth was a Scottish novelist and poet best remembered as one of the most important members of an informal group of poets known as The Group. As a novelist, MacBeth created the popular character Cadbury, who appeared in a series of thrillers. An influential and popular writer, George MacBeth was honored with the prestigious Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.

 40 
S. R. Crockett
(Novelist)
S. R. Crockett
1
Birthdate: September 24, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Balmaghie, Scotland
Died: April 16, 1914
 41 
Edmund Yates
(Journalist)
Edmund Yates
1
Birthdate: July 3, 1831
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: May 20, 1894
 42 
George Douglas Brown
0
Birthdate: January 26, 1869
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ochiltree, Scotland
Died: August 28, 1902
 43 
Selma Dabbagh
0
Birthdate: 1970 AD
Birthplace: Scotland
 44 
Elizabeth Mavor
0
Birthdate: December 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: May 22, 2013