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Edinburgh Writers: Ian Rankin


2017 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the first Inspector John Rebus novel. Rebus is renowned as one of the most popular characters in modern crime fiction.

The man behind the Rebus novels, Ian Rankin, was born in 1960 in Fife but is recognised for his role on the Edinburgh literature scene. After studying at the University of Edinburgh, he went on to work on a PhD, but he never completed it as he spent the time writing novels instead.

Following university, he had a variety of different jobs, a magazine journalist, grape-picker and swineherd. During the 1980s, he briefly lived in London, before moving to France for a short while. He soon returned to Edinburgh though, where he still lives with his wife and sons. Edinburgh has remained present in Rankin’s life as well as the life of his characters.

Rankin’s first published novel was The Flood in 1986, followed a year later by the first of his Rebus novels, Knots and Crosses.

His Inspector Rebus novels are mainly set in and around Edinburgh and ten of the novels have been adapted for television so far. John Hannah starred as John Rebus in Series 1 and 2, and Ken Stott took over the role in series 3 to 5.

Rankin’s only play was written and first performed in 2014. Dark Road premiered at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre in the same year of publication. Separate from his Rebus series, he has written numerous other books including Doors Open in 2008 and Dark Entries in 2009, the non-fiction Rebus’s Scotland and several short stories.

Rankin has been a regular contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review and has presented on television, for TV series including Rankin on the Staircase and Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts. He has also appeared in the TV programmes Ian Rankin investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Ian Rankin’s Hidden Edinburgh and finally, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which took him and cook Anthony Bourdain on a journey around Edinburgh.

Rather unsurprisingly, Rankin has received a wide variety of awards and accolades throughout his writing career. For his contribution to literature, he was presented with an OBE in Edinburgh and has also been made a Hawthornden Fellow. He has won America’s prestigious Edgar Award, Germany’s Deutscher Krimipreis, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize.

He has also won the Chandler-Fulbright Award and received four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the esteemed Diamond Dagger Award.

The latest in the Rebus Series, Rather Be the Devil is due to be published in November.

The Royal Scots Club

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