Ian Rankin grew up in Cardenden, Fife, Scotland, where he attended the local comprehensive school. He describes a rather bleak town in the midst of an economic downturn when the coal mines closed. As a young boy, Rankin developed his own imaginative world in compensation for the grim reality of his immediate surroundings. He majored in English and earned a master of arts degree with honors at the University of Edinburgh. When he began writing fiction, he abandoned his plans to attain a doctorate in the modern Scottish novel.
Rankin began by writing comic books, then poetry and short stories while working as a journalist and book reviewer in London. After a period of living in the French countryside, which included employment as a swineherd, he turned a long story into a novel, The Flood (1986), the story of a young man growing up in Fife but dreaming of moving to Edinburgh.
Rankin’s lifelong love of American fiction and film led him to crime stories. Inspector Rebus appears in Rankin’s second novel, Knots and Crosses (1987). Rankin learned police procedure by interviewing and accompanying Edinburgh detectives. However, he emphasizes that his main interest is in modern Scotland, not in the mystery genre itself. Clearly his novels acquire their authenticity through his evocative descriptions of the city and countryside. Rankin regards Edinburgh, with its dour Calvinist history, as a wonderful setting for crime novels. He calls it a perfect place for conspiracies because of its much darker view of the world than that of other Scottish cities.
Rankin’s interest in music is evident is many of his novels. As a young boy he wrote song lyrics, and he briefly played in a punk band, the Dancing Pigs, in the 1970’s. Songs from the period are often referred to in his novels and become a way of characterizing Rebus as a man somewhat out of place in contemporary Edinburgh, where although the...
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