Ian Rankin

Rankin in 2007
Rankin in 2007
Born (1960-04-28) 28 April 1960 (age 62)
Cardenden, Fife, Scotland
Pen nameJack Harvey
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
GenreCrime fiction
Notable worksDI 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
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.

Year Novel Notes
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 Banquet Short stories
2003 A Question of Blood 14th Inspector Rebus novel
2004 Fleshmarket Close 15th Inspector Rebus novel
2005 Rebus's Scotland: A Personal Journey Non-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
2014 Dark Road Stage 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
2016 The Travelling Companion Limited 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




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  2. ^ "Honorary Fellows". www.rias.org.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
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  57. ^ Death Sentences
  58. ^ The Deathwatch Journal. Penguin. 7 December 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
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