Ian Rankin

Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin

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Saints of the Shadow Bible Ian RankinRebus is back in the police, demoted and a bit angry. While Rebus investigates a car accident, he learns that a case he and his mentors worked thirty years ago is about to be reopened. That investigation is led by none other than Malcolm Fox, and Rebus is caught between his sense of justice and loyalty to the men who helped him start his career in the police.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave was the first time Rebus and Fox, both Rankin creations in their own series, went head to head, but that stand off was just a teaser to the action in Saints of the Shadow Bible. While Rebus ostensibly is working with Malcolm, you as the reader are never sure if his loyalties lie with the truth or with his old comrades. While many Rebus books have let the famous Edinburgh cop toe the line, in Saints of the Shadow Bible, Rebus appears to have let his post-retirement demotion and treatment force him over once and for all. As a long-time reader of Rebus, even I was sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what decision the veteran cop was going to make.

Rankin is in great shape in his most recent work, and it was great to see the contrast of Fox and Rebus when they were placed side by side.  I felt that Saints of the Shadow Bible was much stronger than Standing in Another Man’s Grave or Exit Music, putting Rebus back into some of his best form in years.  Rankin raises the tension, keeps the reader guessing in the two central mysteries, and showcases the growth of his characters over the years. Now if only Siobhan could be more settled and happy and less like Rebus in her personal life (I would also read a book centered solely on Rebus’s apprentice).

I am more excited to see where Rebus and Fox are heading, and hopefully we’ll get to see more of Fox finding his way in his new reality as well.  Rankin is taking this next year off, so no new books will be hitting our shelves until at least 2015, but I cannot wait for what’s next for Edinburgh’s craziest cops.

Rating: 8/10

Read Saints of the Shadow Bible (Inspector Rebus)

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Ian Rankin’s 10 Writing Tips

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On Monday, Most Wanted publishing is announcing Ian Rankin’s newest book title and revealing the cover.  With a new maybe-Rebus on the way, I wanted to celebrate tonight with Ian Rankin’s 10 Writing Tips.  I love the bluntness of his advice, and that he recognizes there’s a lot of luck involved with getting published (look at how many publishers rejected J.K. Rowling after all). What do you think of the Scottish Crime King’s tips?

Ian Rankin Writing Tips

Image Text:

  1. Read lots.
  2. Write lots.
  3. Learn to be self-critical.
  4. Learn what criticism to accept.
  5. Be persistent.
  6. Don’t give up.
  7. Have a story worth telling.
  8. Know the market.
  9. Get lucky.
  10. Stay lucky.

Source: Guardian

Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin

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Standing in Another Man’s Grave follows Ian Rankin’s now-retired DI Rebus, who has not given up his need to solve cases.  Working as a civilian with other retired cops in the Cold Case Unit, Rebus meets a woman who claims her daughter was the first victim in a string of murders along Scotland’s A9 motorway.  Rebus, ever a man who loves a damsel in distress, decides to look into the case.  In so doing, he begins to uncover some interesting facts about the current disappearance of a young girl.  He throws himself back in with Siobhan Clarke, and worms his way onto the active investigation.  Wary of Rebus’s presence is another Rankin protagonist, Inspector Malcolm Fox of the Complaints.  Fox cannot believe Rebus is a clean cop, and when Rebus thinks about signing on to active duty, Fox thinks it’s his duty to find all the dirt of Rebus and his strange relationship with mobster Big Ger.

When Standing in Another Man’s Grave was announced, I was excited about the prospect of Fox and Rebus going toe to toe.  There are plenty of our favorite authors who have multiple beloved characters, and wouldn’t we all like to watch these characters meet?  By the earlier released log line, I assumed this was a book from Fox, and that Rebus would be a minor figure.  Paint me astonished, because upon reading it the book was much the other way around.  The majority of the narrative follows Rebus on the case, and we only get a small glimpse into what Fox thinks of this rather old-fashioned cop.  And that glimpse is rather scathing.

Rankin explains in the afterword that he had never really been done with Rebus, but the required retirement age in Scotland had painted him into a corner with Rebus’s employment.  Because John Rebus would never become a private detective nor would he be able to find crimes to solve while not on active duty, Rebus was retired.  But then Rankin heard about the Cold Case Unit employing retired cops, and even better, the age restriction being raised.  Suddenly, Rebus could come back and back he came.

I was mostly happy with the return of Rebus.  He got up to his old tricks, but painted against the backdrop of Siobhan’s career choices and Fox’s opinions, it was hard not to feel that Rebus was a bit out of place in modern crime solving.  Which is what I think Rankin wanted to do, but, not giving anything away, the ending really cemented that maybe Rebus has gone too far to prove he is still relevant and can deliver results.  Going forward with any new Rebus, it would be interesting to see if Rankin would tame him a bit, allow him to adjust to the newer way of doing things.  Otherwise, the reality of Rebus staying in the force would seem a bit stretched, and Rankin has been fairly fastidious about being realistic.

As for the meeting of the minds, it was rather intriguing to see Fox set against the backdrop of Rebus.  Having read both The Complaints and The Impossible Dead, Fox is a character I thought I knew quite well.  When things are told from his side of the story, you automatically assume guilt on the part of the cops, and you know why Fox goes after them so hard.  But when Fox comes after Rebus, and you know Rebus is innocent, it puts a whole new spin on the view of a narrator.  After all, from Fox’s perspective, this is a retired cop interested in rejoining the ranks who still works for the police department, has biweekly nights out with former mobster Big Ger Cafferty, and by all accounts, saved Cafferty’s life.  But we know that Rebus hates Cafferty and that his motives are pure, even if his methods aren’t.  Standing in Another Man’s Grave brings these two protagonists against each other and says a lot more about the respective characters when the reader thought they knew enough already.

As a crime novel, I found Rankin’s newest offering to be mostly on par with his previous works.  My only real complaint was the end of the book, and the issue was that Rebus was so strong-handed that I felt it cheapened and lessened the criminal’s confession.  However, having another Rebus and seeing that there is still a lot more to his story makes my day, and I will continue to read any new offerings.  (It gave me chills to see “Rebus is Back” right there on the cover.)

Rating: 7.5/10

Bloody Scotland, Day 1

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I had the most awesome opportunity this weekend to attend Bloody Scotland, the first crime writing festival in Scotland.  Not only did we get to kick off the festival with a hilarious recreation of authors Alex Gray and Lin Anderson dreaming up the festival, but Ian Rankin gave the keynote address and the three took questions from the audience.  Plus, I got to meet and get all three of their autographs after the night.  It was surreal.

Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, and Lin Anderson opening the fun-filled weekend.

Instead of standing and giving some sort of address, Gray and Anderson put together a little skit, meant to be a recreation of when they decided to start Bloody Scotland.  Part way through Ian Rankin and Craig Robertson came on stage, standing at a little pub table pretending to be in their own conversation.  Rankin was later invited to join Gray and Anderson, and from there gave his keynote address.  Though it sounds a bit silly to describe, having the three very influential crime authors sitting in chairs just having a nice chat gave the evening, and the beginning of the weekend, a relaxed, comfortable feel.  Which is helpful when you open the panel up for questions from the audience.

Rankin made a few great observations about Scottish crime fiction, one of which is that there was no real history of it.  Sure, the quintessential detective Sherlock Holmes was written by a Scot based on a Scot, but he was English and lived in London.  After Conan Doyle, there were no other writers who stepped forward and took over the mystery game.  Not really until literary writer William McIlvanney published Laidlaw in 1977, that is.  Rankin noted that without a long-standing tradition, Scottish crime writers are not constrained by outside expectations, and that freedom has allowed perhaps the most creative, diverse set of crime writers from any country.

In addition to his personal views on the history of crime fiction, Rankin shared a bit of his own past with the genre.  As many of his fans know, Rankin was a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh when he wrote the first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses.  To hear Ian Rankin tell it, it was really McIlvanney who inspired him to go for the crime genre.  When Rankin met McIlvanney at a signing, he mentioned that he was working on his own detective, but that he’d be from Edinburgh instead.  McIlvanney apparently replied with signing Rankin’s book with the inscription, “Good luck on the Edinburgh Laidlaw.”  Not surprisingly, Rankin stated that he still has that book (why would he ever part with it, though?).  But one of Rankin’s points that surprised me was he mentioned he wanted to write books that his dad would pick up.  He wanted to write something that was accessible, enjoyable to read.  Considering he was in the middle of a grueling academic degree, spending his time delving deep into sometimes impenetrable literature, I don’t blame Rankin for not wanting to follow that same path.

Other tidbits:

  • Ian Rankin suggests that before you travel anywhere, read the crime fiction set there.  It’ll show you the places to go (and avoid), and it gives you the most accurate depiction of a city.
  • Rankin also broke all wannabe writers’ hearts by saying that writing never gets any easier.  Because you will always want to improve and top the last thing you did, and you can’t stay stagnant, you’ll agonize over each book.  Thanks Ian.
  • When offered water after his glass of presumably beer was empty, Rankin just waved his hand and laughed.
  • Alex Gray and Lin Anderson have obviously had way too much fun putting Bloody Scotland together.
  • Mentions of the Scottish Crime writers as a sort of gang of friends was nice, minus the sad news of fake Amazon reviews by one of their own (to be discussed in another post).

Rebus Still in Trouble – Even in Retirement

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It has been about five years since Ian Rankin retired DI John Rebus in Exit Music and seemingly left the troubling detective behind for man-of-the-rules Malcolm Fox.

But Rebus fans’ dreams came true when Rankin announced that Rebus would be making a comeback – with Siobhan Clarke and Fox beside him:

It is twenty-five years since Rebus first appeared in Knots and Crosses, and five years since he retired. In Standing in Another Man’s Grave not only is Rebus as stubborn and anarchic as ever, but he finds himself in trouble with Ian Rankin’s latest creation, Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit. In the meantime his protégée Siobhan has stepped from under his shadow and is forging ahead in her own career.

Source: IanRankin.net

Talk about a dream mashup of characters.  Rebus the cop who loves to break rules and Fox the one who makes sure cops adhere to them, the combination of the two very different, but very similar, characters should be electrifying.  Of course, the question is – will this be a Rebus novel with Malcolm Fox as the guest star, or the other way around?

Do you have a favorite author you wish would take after Rankin’s lead?  If you’re a Rankin fan, are you excited about Rebus’s return or just wish he would have left the character out of Edinburgh CID?

 

Are Authors Celebrities?

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Ian Rankin – I think this is the same picture he’s used for years.

Thinking about my impending visit to Bloody Scotland, I was imagining finally seeing (and maybe meeting) Ian Rankin.

For many reasons, that is a terrifying prospect.  For one, I spent a couple years of my life intensely studying some of his books, which is evidenced by all of my copies being heavily marked and littered with Post It flags.

Second, nothing I could possibly say to this man would not come off as extremely embarrassing.  Most likely.  As well as my initial meeting with Denise Mina went, I have to say I am about ten times as terrified/excited to meet the man behind Rebus.  The fear won’t prevent me from going to the festival (I did already book my tickets) or from seeing Ian Rankin speak, but I have to say that I will probably anticipate that Friday evening more than any other I could think of.  (Minus my own wedding of course.  Which happens to also be a Friday evening.  Luckily the Scottish fiance doesn’t always read these musings, which just might save our marriage down the line.)

All of this anticipation and hype got me thinking – Do we view authors as celebrities? Or do we look at them differently than we would a movie star?

I would have to say:  yes, we look at them much differently. We fall in love with their talent, not with their faces or ability to make us swoon.  Look at guys like Stephen King; great writer, but not the most handsome guy in the world.  Now think about the celebrity you find most attractive, like the Ryans (Gosling and Reynolds) or Chrises (Hemsworth and Evans) of the world.  When you think of these actors, you generally first think of how beautiful they are on a movie screen, second how talented they are.  Not everyone does that and yes, I admire many actors for their talent (Jennifer Lawrence or Gosling again), but as a very superficial society we do look at actors and judge them on how attractive they are.  After all, the ones that look like Paul Giamatti or Philip Seymour Hoffman are considered “character actors”, and hardly ever are given the lead in a blockbuster film.

This is what is so refreshing about the book world.  No one cares.  It might be an added bonus that your favorite author is good to look at, but how many authors are there in the world that really look like Nathan Fillion’s Castle?  I might not think every author who is loved deserves the accolades, but where our tastes differ we can all agree on the same thing – we love our favorite authors because of what they write.  Because they bring our favorite characters to life.  Or simply because they paint a picture with words so vivid that you almost forget what you are reading is fiction.

So, back to my main question – are authors celebrities?  No, not really.  Not in the traditional sense anyway.  You are not really getting to know them (as you can fool yourself into believing with the traditional celebrity), but you are getting to know their writing style, their talent, and maybe a little piece of their own reality.  You see the inner workings of their brains in a way that is so unique from any other art form, and yet they are all distinct from what they write.  It is actually frowned upon in the academic world when you bring an author’s background into the literary theory, unless there is just that unmistakable connection.  Whatever the author has gone through has been channeled into their work, without a doubt, but what we are reading is something wholly different from what they might actually believe or have lived through.

This is I think why it is almost nerve wracking to meet your favorite author.  You know that they are not the characters they write, and yet you sort of want to believe it.  So you stress, because you do not want to come out to a signing sounding like some nutter who believes the fiction is real, and yet you want them to know how much their work has touched you in whatever way.

And here’s the main question:  would you actually recognize your favorite author on the street?  Most of us would have to say no, unless your favorite author was J.K. Rowling, and I would have to admit even she might be hard to recognize in a crowd.  Question answered with this one, really.

The Impossible Dead – Ian Rankin

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Impossible DeadIn his second outing, Malcolm Fox has managed to find himself wrapped up in yet another mystery.  While investigating a corrupt cop in Fife, Fox finds himself increasingly interested in a case that dates back 20 years.  Embroiled in the unsolved murder of an ’80s political idealist, Fox gets distracted from his actual case and angers the wrong people.  Concurrently dealing with his sister’s anger and his father’s failing health, Fox must find a way to work within his constraints as a Complaints officer and still satisfy his growing curiosity.

Rankin certainly has a different set of constraints to work in here.  With Rebus, it was almost easy to see why he would go off the rails a bit.  After all, Rebus had a sense of justice and usually came about the crimes in his other CID investigations.  Fox, however, feels a bit too much like a bored man turned detective.  Akin to Victorian mysteries, he simply has too much time on his hands.  In The Complaints, Fox was trying to clear his sister’s name.  But in The Impossible Dead, there is no real tie to the mystery other than satisfying his own curiosity.  Fox does not even appear driven by that justice that drove Rebus to bring down everyone who committed a wrong.  Fox is still a fresh character, and I am sure Rankin will get a better handle on Fox’s motivations within the next couple of novels.

The mystery itself was really interesting and had a lot of pieces that I never would have seen coming.  In these small pieces, Rankin truly is a master.  He is able to carefully weave a story around a central idea, tying everything together in the end, while keeping the killer a complete mystery.  I honestly cannot say that I have solved very many of Rankin’s mysteries before Rebus (or Fox) solved them for me.  That is what I really like about Rankin.  A lot of authors give it away in the beginning or have so few twists and turns that it is a straight path to the killer.  While you may get nigglings that you know who is behind the dead bodies, you are never fully sure until Rankin’s protagonist corners the killer with his theories.  While I do love watching a detective come to their own conclusions, I love it even more if I am kept in the dark and experiencing it along with the detective.

One thing that I particularly love about Rankin is the complexity of his characters, and Fox is no exception.  Rankin manages to weave an interesting mystery around the happenings in a family.  When Fox’s father falls ill and his sister rejects him, you feel sorry that he does not have a stronger relationship with her.  The complicated relationship between siblings (made even more complicated by Jude’s boyfriend’s death in The Complaints) is real and touching.  While they do not make great strides towards a more friendly arrangement, they certainly try their best.  Sure, you don’t go to Rankin expecting a familial drama, but he has continued to do a good job providing one within the confines of crime fiction.  After all, who wants to read about a detective with no depth, no history, and no complications?

Rating: 8/10