March 12, 2005

Scottish Writer Aids Revival of British Crime Fiction

Snapshots In My Time, Of My Time.....Hauntings.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If Edinburgh were all about men in kilts playing bagpipes, its medieval castle and the world's top arts festival, then British crime writing might have drifted into a stately old age.

Now enter Ian Rankin, a child of the 1960s whose bestselling detectives listen to pop group Prefab Sprout, drink cappuccino and spend their working lives coping with a seamy side of Scotland's ancient capital that tourists never get to see.

"Suddenly there was this idea that Scotland was an interesting place to write about, that Edinburgh was an interesting and complex city, and it is, which is why there are so many crime writers there now," Rankin told Reuters during a recent stop on a reading tour in the United States

Inspired by "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of dual personality, Rankin first portrayed Edinburgh's underbelly as seen by Detective Inspector John Rebus in his 1987 novel "Knots and Crosses."

Then in 1996, Edinburgh's prim, sedate image was dented forever by "Trainspotting," a film of native son Irvine Welsh's book about alienated, drug-taking youths from housing projects on the city's fringes.

Success for Scottish writers means Rankin is now proud to have as near-neighbors in Edinburgh fellow crime writer Alexander McCall Smith and mega-bestseller J.K. Rowling.

"So, I know where the competition is," he quipped before a public reading from "Fleshmarket Alley," his 15th novel featuring Rebus and titled "Fleshmarket Close" in Britain after a real street in Edinburgh's Old Town.


Long-established as Britain's top-selling crime writer, Rankin made his mark in the United States when he won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for best novel with Rebus' 13th outing, "Resurrection Men."

Although he is now one of the most successful crime writers around, Rankin admits he was "horrified" when his first Rebus novel was classified as detective fiction.


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