Ian Rankin, successful author of the Inspector Rebus novels, was born in 1960 in Fife. Many of the Rebus novels have been adapted for TV. John Hannah initially played the role of Rebus, later taken over by Ken Stott. The author has made several TV appearances, including Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts and Newsnight Review.
Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English in 1982. He has since received honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Abertay (Dundee).
The character Rebus was born whilst Rankin was working on a PhD in Scottish Literature. When he conceived Knots and Crosses, the first Rebus book which he started writing on an electric typewriter, he intended Rebus to die at the end of the novel. Luckily for both him and his worldwide reading public, he decided this might not be the most appropriate ending, giving the prolific author scope for a series of interlinked novels spanning decades. We first meet Rebus aged forty. The novel Exit Music, published in 2007, sees Rebus approaching retirement twenty years later.
Rankin lives in Edinburgh and most of his novels are set in the city. Die-hard Rebus fans may be caught investigating locations from the Oxford Bar (one of Rebus’s favourite watering holes) to Arthur’s Seat (a well known Edinburgh landmark mentioned in several Rebus novels) to St Leonard’s Police Station (an actual police station which is Rebus’s place of work in novels since The Black Book).
Rebus is an unusual character – hard living, prone to working his own way, a hard headed cop known for bending/breaking the rules. He has a history – an ex-wife and a daughter who regularly appear in the novels, an army past which can give him an edge on standard procedures. The novels mix exciting plots, detailed localities and human interest. Rankin does not pull punches and talking to others who have read and enjoyed his books a word that comes out often is “tough” – tough style, tough content, tough characters. As one reader put it to me “Rebus is dealing with the flotsam and jetsam of society.” The characterisation is sharp, the dialogue engaging, the humour often dancing a razor’s edge between dark and light.
Ian Rankin has developed a brand which sells, which people come back to. As he has grown in writing maturity his books have become deeper, richer, more complex. Whilst Rebus may be his signature tune – he has frequent musical references in his works and often has music playing whilst he is writing – Ian Rankin has also written several other books. Take a look round his website for more information and an interactive map that can help you learn more about the Edinburgh of Inspector Rebus and his creator.