Rankin and Rebus
Rebus Plays Hide and Seek

The Falls
Illustration courtesy of Orion.

The first Rebus book was intended as a one-off, as Ian Rankin began to experiment with other genres, general thrillers, spy novels, writing under a pseudonym, Jack Harvey, to differentiate the literary styles. Then someone asked whatever happened to Rebus? So Rebus was brought back to life for a second adventure, in Hide and Seek, (with a notable allusion to Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde), and a third and a fourth.

By then Rankin's name was certainly "a newcomer to watch", and not just in Scotland and the UK. Internationally, writers and critics were soon beginning to pay attention not least the honour of being presented with the 1992 Chandler-Fulbright Award, one of the world's most prestigious detective fiction prizes (funded by the estate of Raymond Chandler). The $20,000 cash prize brought him, his wife and son to the United States for six months where he drove 14,000 miles from Seattle to Nantucket (by way of San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York City) in a 1969 Volkswagen camper van:

"Each day I thanked the estate of Raymond Chandler whose money was paying for this most amazing experience."
Holmes, Marlowe, Spade, Poirot, Alleyn, McBain, Morse, Wexford, Rebus
"Crime fiction makes it possible to experience without danger all the excitement, passion and desirousness which must be suppressed in humanitarian, ordinary society."
Rankin's childhood reading of adventure comics, tough American thrillers as well as Stevenson's gothic tales about body snatchers had eventually paid off. Rankin has created, albeit unwittingly, a very believable, loveable, living character to stand proudly in line beside the classic names of fictional detectives. Rebus lives in real time, starting out in 1987 at the age of 40, he is now mid fifties, ageing, gaining weight, often alone and depressed. He is becoming more and more sceptical about his colleagues and bitterly cynical about the apathy and chaos that filters through much of contemporary urban society. Yet on the job, cracking a case, smart, in control, he adopts a coolly astute and perceptive outlook. Through vivid characters and storyline, Rankin has developed a fresh and original literary voice, which shifts its volume through the pages from brash and loud to softly emotional at its romantic core.

Arthur's Seat
The Falls, Rankin's latest novel "The Fall" was inspired by tiny coffins which were found on Arthur's Seat, a hill overlooking Edinburgh. Rebus is attracted to Jean, whom he meets during his investigations at the Museum of Scotland (where the coffins are now to be found).

"They sat in silence for a minute or two, then she asked him about police work. Usually Rebus felt awkward talking about his job. He wasn't sure people were really interested. The suicides and autopsies, petty grudges and black moods that led people to the cells. Domestics and stabbings, Saturday nights gone wrong, professional thugs and addicts. When he spoke he was always afraid his voice would betray his passion for the job."

Most aptly James Ellroy has coined the phrase "Tartan Noir" to describe Rankin's gritty, hard hitting, hard-boiled detective stories set in and around the closes and kirkyards of old Edinburgh.

The multi-layered plots, often with two or three competing cases and themes in each novel, cover the tracking of a serial killer, housing estate street gangs, the disappearance of a student, prostitution, politics, drug culture, corruption, as well as clever links with the past and stories of true crime, where the memories of evil happenings still lurk amongst the cobblestones of the Royal Mile. This all adds to the authenticity of the atmosphere and setting.

"One side of the road was Bruntsfield Links, the other the Meadows, a flat grassy stretch which could be wonderful on a hot summer's afternoon - but scary at night. The paths were lamp-lit, but it was like the wattage had been turned down. Some nights the walk was positively Victorian. Female students crossed the Meadows in packs, a lesson learned from the animal world. Maybe there were no predators out there tonight, but the fear was just as real."
    From Black & Blue [1997]
Following the Chandler award, The British Crime Writers Association has presented Ian Rankin with two CWA Daggers for his short stories, and in 1997 Rankin won the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger Award for Fiction for his eighth Rebus novel, Black and Blue. This novel was also short-listed for the Edgar Award for Best Novel in the United States.

Next page > Rebus on TV, on Tour and Wordwide > Page 1, 2, 3.

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