Ian Rankin

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Ian Rankin

Rankin in 2007
Born (1960-04-28) 28 April 1960 (age 62)
Cardenden, Fife, Scotland
Pen nameJack Harvey
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Genre Crime fiction
Notable works DI John Rebus novels
Malcolm Fox novels
Dark Entries
Miranda Harvey
(m. 1986)

Sir Ian James Rankin OBE DL FRSE FRSL FRIAS [2] (born 28 April 1960) is a Scottish crime writer, best known for his Inspector Rebus novels.


Early life

Rankin was born in Cardenden, Fife. His father, James, owned a grocery shop, and his mother, Isobel, worked in a school canteen. [3] He was educated at Beath High School, Cowdenbeath. His parents were horrified when he then chose to study literature at university, as they had expected him to study for a trade. [3] Encouraged by his English teacher, he persisted and graduated in 1982 from the University of Edinburgh, where he also worked on a doctorate on Muriel Spark but did not complete it. [4] He has taught at the university and retains an involvement with the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. [5] He lived in Tottenham, London, for four years and then rural France for six while he developed his career as a novelist. [6] Before becoming a full-time novelist, he worked as a grape picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician in a band called the Dancing Pigs. [7] [8] [3]


Rankin did not set out to be a crime writer. He thought his first novels, Knots and Crosses and Hide and Seek , were mainstream books, more in keeping with the Scottish traditions of Robert Louis Stevenson and even Muriel Spark. He was disconcerted by their classification as genre fiction. The Scottish novelist Allan Massie, who tutored Rankin while Massie was writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh, reassured him by saying, "Do you think John Buchan ever worried about whether he was writing literature or not?" [9]

Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels are set mainly in Edinburgh. They are considered major contributions to the tartan noir genre. [10] Thirteen of the novels—plus one short story— were adapted as a television series on ITV, starring John Hannah as Rebus in series 1 and 2 (4 episodes) and Ken Stott in that role in series 3–5 (10 episodes).

In 2009, Rankin donated the short story "Fieldwork" to Oxfam's Ox-Tales project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Rankin's story was published in the Earth collection. [11]

Rankin signing copies of his debut graphic novel, Dark Entries, in the Edinburgh Forbidden Planet International store in December 2009 Ian Rankin signing Dark Entries in Forbidden Planet Edinburgh 06.jpg
Rankin signing copies of his debut graphic novel, Dark Entries, in the Edinburgh Forbidden Planet International store in December 2009

In 2009 Rankin stated on Radio Five Live that he would start work on a five- or six-issue run on the comic book Hellblazer , although he may turn the story into a stand-alone graphic novel instead. The Vertigo Comics panel at WonderCon 2009 confirmed that the story would be published as a graphic novel, Dark Entries , the second release from the company's Vertigo Crime imprint. [12] [13] [14]

In 2013, Rankin co-wrote the play Dark Road with Mark Thomson, the artistic director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre. [15] [16] The play, which marked Rankin's play-writing debut, [17] premiered at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in September 2013. [18]

In 2005, Rankin became the tenth best selling writer in Britain, accounting for 10% of all crime fiction sold. [19] He writes under the pseudonym Jack Harvey as well. [4]

In 2021, Rankin helped finish a draft by William McIlvanney, a prequel telling the story of an early case of McIlvanney's fictional detective Jack Laidlaw. McIlvanney, whom Rankin admires, had died in 2015 leaving the manuscript unfinished. It was published under the name The Dark Remains . [20]

In 2022, Rankin signed a deal with publisher Orion to write two new John Rebus novels. [21] Later that same year, he received a Knighthood from HM Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature and charity as part of her Birthday Honours List.


Rankin is a regular contributor to the BBC Two arts programme Newsnight Review. [22] His three-part documentary series on the subject of evil was broadcast on Channel 4 in December 2002. In 2005 he presented a 30-minute documentary on BBC Four called Rankin on the Staircase, in which he investigated the relationship between real-life cases and crime fiction. It was loosely based on the Michael Peterson murder case, as covered in Jean-Xavier Lestrade's documentary series Death on the Staircase. The same year, Rankin collaborated with folk musician Jackie Leven on the album Jackie Leven Said. [23]

In 2007, Rankin appeared in programmes for BBC Four exploring the origins of his alter-ego character, John Rebus. In these, titled "Ian Rankin's Hidden Edinburgh" and "Ian Rankin Investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," Rankin looks at the origins of the character and the events that led to his creation.

In the TV show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations , he takes a trip through Edinburgh with writer/cook Anthony Bourdain.


Rankin is the singer in the six-piece band Best Picture, formed by journalists Kenny Farquharson ( The Times ) and Euan McColl ( The Scotsman ) in 2017, and featuring Bobby Bluebell on guitar. [24] They released the single "Isabelle" on Oriel Records in October 2017. [25] They made their live debut at the Kendal Calling music festival on 28 July 2018. [26]

Personal life

He lives in Edinburgh with his wife, Miranda (née Harvey), whom he met at university and married in 1986, and their two sons: John Morgan "Jack" Harvey-Rankin (born 1992) and Christopher Connor "Kit" Harvey-Rankin (born 1994). He has acknowledged the assistance they get from Forward Vision in Edinburgh in looking after Kit and other young adults with special needs. They lived for a number of years in the Merchiston/Morningside area, [27] near the authors J. K. Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Kate Atkinson, [28] before moving to a penthouse flat in the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary building in Quartermile in Lauriston. [29] The couple also own a house in Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands. [30] Rankin appears as a character in McCall Smith's 2004 novel, 44 Scotland Street .

In 2011 a group of ten book sculptures were deposited around Edinburgh as gifts to cultural institutions and the people of the city. Many of the sculptures made reference to the work of Rankin, and an eleventh sculpture was a personal gift to him. [31]

In 2019, Rankin donated his personal archives to the National Library of Scotland after moving to his flat in the Quartermile. The Library planned an exhibition for 2021 of highlights from the archive, which includes research notes, newspaper clippings and manuscripts. [32]

Rankin has donated a considerable portion of his earnings to charity. In 2007, he and his wife set up a trust to support charities in the fields of health, art and education. In 2020, it was reported that he had donated around £1 million to the trust in the previous five years, with £200,000 being donated in 2019. [33] In 2022, he donated rare first editions of three of his early works, valued at a total of £1,850, to a book sale in aid of Christian Aid. [34]

Honours and awards

Rankin was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2002 for services to literature and knighted in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to literature and charity. [35]


To date, Rankin has published 25 novels, two short story collections, one original graphic novel and one novella, and a non-fiction book. He has also written a Quick Reads title.

1986 The Flood Rankin's 1st novel
1987 Knots and Crosses 1st Inspector Rebus novel
1988 Watchman
1990 Westwind
1991 Hide and Seek 2nd Inspector Rebus novel
1992 Tooth and Nail 3rd Inspector Rebus novel
Strip Jack 4th Inspector Rebus novel
A Good Hanging and Other Stories Short stories
1993 Witch Hunt Writing as Jack Harvey
The Black Book 5th Inspector Rebus novel
1994 Bleeding Hearts Writing as Jack Harvey
Mortal Causes 6th Inspector Rebus novel
1995 Blood Hunt Writing as Jack Harvey
Let it Bleed 7th Inspector Rebus novel
1997 Black and Blue 8th Inspector Rebus novel
Won Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction
Herbert in Motion & Other Stories Limited edition chapbook with 4 stories, 2 original to this collection
1998 The Hanging Garden 9th Inspector Rebus novel
1999 Dead Souls 10th Inspector Rebus novel
2000 Set in Darkness 11th Inspector Rebus novel
2001 The Falls 12th Inspector Rebus novel
2002 Resurrection Men 13th Inspector Rebus novel
won The Edgar Award
Beggars BanquetShort stories
2003 A Question of Blood 14th Inspector Rebus novel
2004 Fleshmarket Close 15th Inspector Rebus novel
2005Rebus's Scotland: A Personal JourneyNon-fiction
Awarded CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger
The Complete Short Stories Short stories; omnibus including the contents of A Good Hanging & Other Stories and Beggar's Banquet plus one new story, "Atonement"
2006 The Naming of the Dead 16th Inspector Rebus novel
2007 Exit Music 17th Inspector Rebus novel
Won ITV3 Crime Thriller Award
2008 Doors Open
2009 A Cool Head Quick Reads 2009
The Complaints 1st Malcolm Fox novel
Dark Entries Vertigo Crime featuring John Constantine
2011 The Impossible Dead [55] 2nd Malcolm Fox novel
2012 Standing in Another Man's Grave [56] 18th Inspector Rebus & 3rd Malcolm Fox novel
2013 Saints of the Shadow Bible 19th Inspector Rebus & 4th Malcolm Fox novel
2014Dark RoadStage play, with Mark Thomson
The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories Short stories
2015 Even Dogs in the Wild 20th Rebus & 5th Malcolm Fox novel
2016The Travelling CompanionLimited edition bibliomystery; No 26 in a series of short stories by crime writers, Death Sentences [57]
Rather Be the Devil 21st Rebus & 6th Malcolm Fox novel
2018 Rebus: Long Shadows Stage play, with Rona Munro (part of the Inspector Rebus series)
In a House of Lies 22nd Rebus & 7th Malcolm Fox novel
2020 A Song for the Dark Times 23rd Rebus & 8th Malcolm Fox novel
2022 A Heart Full of Headstones 24th Rebus novel

Other publications

Edited anthology


Graphic novels

Graphic novella


Short stories



Related Research Articles

Detective Inspector John Rebus is the protagonist in the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels by the Scottish writer Sir Ian Rankin, ten of which have so far been televised as Rebus. The novels are mostly set in and around Edinburgh. Rebus has been portrayed by John Hannah and Ken Stott for Television, with Ron Donachie playing the character for the BBC Radio dramatisations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William McIlvanney</span> Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet (1936-2015)

William McIlvanney was a Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet. He was known as Gus by friends and acquaintances. McIlvanney was a champion of gritty yet poetic literature; his works Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch, and Walking Wounded are all known for their portrayal of Glasgow in the 1970s. He is regarded as "the father of Tartan Noir" and as Scotland's Camus.

<i>Inspector Rebus</i> Series of detective novels by Ian Rankin

The Inspector Rebus books are a series of detective novels by the Scottish author Sir Ian Rankin. The novels, centred on Detective Inspector John Rebus, are mostly based in and around Edinburgh. They are considered an important contribution to 'Tartan Noir'.

The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) is a specialist authors’ organisation in the United Kingdom, most notable for its Dagger awards for the best crime writing of the year, and the Diamond Dagger awarded to an author for lifetime achievement. The Association also promotes crime writing of fiction and non-fiction by holding annual competitions, publicising literary festivals and establishing links with libraries, booksellers and other writer organisations, both in the UK such as the Society of Authors, and overseas. The CWA enables members to network at its annual conference and through its regional chapters as well as through dedicated social media channels and private website. Members' events and general news items are published on the CWA website which also features Find An Author where CWA members are listed and information provided about themselves, their books and their awards.

<i>Knots and Crosses</i>

Knots and Crosses is a 1987 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the first of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was written while Rankin was a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. In the introduction to this novel, Rankin states that Rebus lives directly opposite the window in Marchmont that he looked out of while writing the book.

<i>Let It Bleed</i> (novel) Book by Ian Rankin

Let it Bleed is a 1995 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the seventh of the Inspector Rebus novels. The US edition has a final chapter which the UK edition does not have, as the author's 'Introduction' explains.

<i>The Hanging Garden</i> (Rankin novel)

The Hanging Garden is a 1998 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the ninth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was the second episode in the Rebus television series starring John Hannah, airing in 2001.

<i>Set in Darkness</i>

Set in Darkness is a 2000 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the eleventh of the Inspector Rebus novels. It won the 2005 Grand Prix du Roman Policier (France) under the title Du fond des ténèbres.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Craig Russell (British author)</span> Scottish novelist, short story writer and author

Craig Russell, also known as Christopher Galt, is a Scottish novelist, short story writer and author of The Devil Aspect. His Hamburg-set thriller series featuring detective Jan Fabel has been translated into 23 languages. Russell speaks fluent German and has a special interest in post-war German history. His books, particularly The Devil Aspect and the Fabel series, tend to include historical or mythological themes.

<i>Exit Music</i> Crime novel by Ian Rankin

Exit Music is the seventeenth crime novel in the internationally bestselling Inspector Rebus series, written by Ian Rankin. It was published on 6 September 2007. The book is named after the Radiohead song "Exit Music ".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Martin Edwards (author)</span> British crime novelist, critic and solicitor (born 1955)

Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won multiple awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles. He is the current President of the Detection Club and in 2020 was awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing, in recognition of the "sustained excellence" of his work in the genre.

<i>Laidlaw</i> (novel)

Laidlaw is the first novel of a series of crime books by William McIlvanney, first published in 1977. It features the eponymous detective in his attempts to find the brutal sex related murderer of a Glasgow teenager. Laidlaw is marked by his unconventional methods in tracking the killer, immersing himself in a 1970s Glasgow featuring violence and bigotry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Robotham</span> Australian writer (born 1960)

Michael Robotham is an Australian crime fiction writer who has twice won the CWA Gold Dagger award for best novel and twice been shortlisted for the Edgar Award for best novel. His eldest child is Alexandra Hope Robotham, professionally known as Alex Hope, an Australian producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.

<i>A Good Hanging and Other Stories</i>

A Good Hanging and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by crime writer Ian Rankin.

<i>The Complaints</i>

The Complaints is a novel by Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin. It was published in the United Kingdom on 3 September 2009.

Chris Dolan is a Scottish novelist, poet, and playwright.

<i>The Beat Goes On</i> (short story collection) Inspector Rebus anthology by Ian Rankin

The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Short Stories is an anthology of all the Inspector Rebus short stories (30) by Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, plus the novella Death Is Not the End; though the Rebus short story "Well Shot" published in 2nd Culprit (1993) is not included. It is Rankin's third collection of short stories

<i>The Dark Remains</i> (novel) 2021 Scottish crime novel

The Dark Remains is a Scottish crime novel of the tartan noir genre set in Glasgow. Part-written by William McIlvanney who left a half-finished handwritten draft when he died in 2015, the novel was completed by Ian Rankin and published in 2021. See Canongate website, with interview with Ian Rankin:


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