Authors: Ian Rankin
‘Arguably no Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott has had the commercial and critical success that Ian Rankin now enjoys. He may even be said to have invented modern Scotland, or at least modern Edinburgh, for his readers, just as Scott did in his time … Rebus lives. So does Rankin’s Edinburgh’
‘Rankin captures, like no one else, that strangeness that is Scotland at the end of the twentieth century. He has always written superb crime fiction … but what he’s also pinning down is instant history’
‘Rankin writes laconic, sophisticated, well-paced thrillers’
‘Rankin strips Edinburgh’s polite façade to its gritty skeleton’
‘The real strength of Ian Rankin’s work … is that it’s a good deal more than a crime novel. The genre is simply the wrapper in which a complex story of human flaws and frailty is contained’
‘Rankin proves himself the master of his own milieu … There cannot be a better crime novelist writing’
‘Arguably Scotland’s finest living writer’
‘The internal police politics and corruption in high places are both portrayed with bone-freezing accuracy. This novel should come with a wind-chill factor warning’
‘A brutal but beautifully written series … Rankin pushes the procedural form well past conventional genre limits’
‘Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus is one of the most realistic creations in crime fiction … [he] builds his story layer by layer until it reaches a gripping climax. This is a terrific read’
‘Ian Rankin is widely, and rightly, regarded as the leading male crime writer in Britain’
‘No other writer in his chosen genre is producing books as rich and comprehensive as this: Dickensian, you might say’
‘Rebus is a masterful creation … Rankin has taken his well-earned place among the top echelon of crimewriters’
Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel,
Knots and Crosses
, was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into over thirty languages and are bestsellers worldwide.
Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005 and in 2009 was inducted into the CWA Hall of Fame. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar award for
. He has also been shortlisted for the Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s
Prize, the French
Grand Prix du Roman Noir
. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Hull and the Open University.
A contributor to BBC2’s
, he also presented his own TV series,
Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts
. He has received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh. He has also recently been appointed to the rank of Deputy Lieutenant of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons. Visit his website at
A lot of people helped me with this book. I’d like to thank the people of Northern Ireland for their generosity and their ‘crack’. Particular thanks need to go to a few people who can’t be named or wouldn’t thank me for naming them. You know who you are.
Thanks also to: Colin and Liz Stevenson, for trying; Gerald Hammond, for his gun expertise; the officers of the City of Edinburgh Police and Lothian and Borders Police, who never seem to mind me telling stories about them; David and Pauline, for help at the Festival.
The best book on the subject of Protestant paramilitaries is Professor Steve Bruce’s
The Red Hand
(OUP, 1992). One quote from the book: ‘There is no “Northern Ireland problem” for which there is a solution. There is only a conflict in which there must be winners and losers.’
The action of
takes place in a fictionalised summer, 1993, before the Shankill Road bombing and its bloody aftermath.
Perhaps Edinburgh’s terrible inability to speak out,
Edinburgh’s silence with regard to all it should be saying,
Is but the hush that precedes the thunder,
The liberating detonation so oppressively imminent now?
We’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.
I grew up in a small coal-mining town in east-central Scotland, a long way from the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Yet each Saturday night of my childhood I would be awakened by some drunk at the end of our cul-de-sac, pausing on his route home in order to offer up a tuneless rendition of ‘The Sash’. As far as I know, no one ever left their home to remonstrate with him. Even now I wonder: was it the same man every time? Who was he? When sober, did he share his workplace with Catholics, and were they aware of his hatred? Did that hatred even exist during his periods of sobriety, or did it only come bubbling up after a long night’s imbibing? There were only one or two Catholic families in our whole street. One of the kids was my best friend until we started our separate educations, after which we drifted apart, finding other friends who shared our daily routines.
I met my future wife at university. She had grown up in Belfast during the worst of the Troubles. Over time I got to know the place, visiting her family two or three times a year, but still not fully comprehending the soul of the conflict there. It is hard to grow up working-class in many parts of Scotland without taking sides. In fact, you don’t even have to take sides: they’re pretty much preordained. Now that I had five Rebus novels under my belt, I decided it was time to tackle some of my own questions about sectarianism and religious division in Scotland. But to make things interesting, I decided that this new story would take as its backdrop the Edinburgh Festival. That way, I could show the Scots at play, as opposed to the uglier truths about my home nation’s tribal instincts.
One of my favourite jobs as a writer is coming up with titles. Previous books had been easy, but I struggled with
. The thing is, I need to have a title down on paper before I can start writing the story. It was my wife Miranda who came up with
, after a brainstorming session and countless dismissed suggestions on both sides. I liked the pun inherent in the title. The Scottish vernacular is rich in colourful euphemisms for inebriation: stocious, stotting, guttered, steaming, steamboats, wellied and hoolit are just a few. Another is ‘mortal’, as in: ‘I was fair mortal last night’ (meaning ‘I was very drunk indeed’). So
evoked, in my mind, the demon drink, just as surely as it did any darker and more violent imagery.
In this book, the relationship between Rebus and Edinburgh’s premier gangster, ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty, would become more complex, partly as a result of my fondness for New York writer Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder novels. I’d discovered these during a six-month stint in the USA in the latter half of 1992. I liked the way Scudder (an ex-cop and a man with his own strict moral code) related to a tough-guy hoodlum called Mick Ballou. It was as if they understood one another, maybe even respected one another … yet if either got in the other’s way, only one of them would emerge standing. If you’ve yet to read
, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say, by the end of the book the relationship between Rebus and Cafferty has changed markedly, and in ways which would continue to resonate throughout the series.