From Rebus to Retirement: A comprehensive biography of Ian Rankin


Ian Rankin is an acclaimed Scottish author known for his award-winning crime thrillers featuring Inspector John Rebus. With over 30 books to his name, Rankin has been captivating readers for four decades, making him one of the most prolific and successful writers in the genre.

Born in 1960 in Fife, Scotland, Rankin was brought up in a council estate in the mining village of Cardenden. Despite coming from a working-class background, he was encouraged to read and write by his parents, who would often take him to the local library.

Inspired by his love for literature and the gritty reality of his surroundings, Rankin went on to study English literature at the University of Edinburgh. It was during this time that he developed an interest in crime fiction, particularly the works of American authors such as Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.

After graduating, Rankin took on a variety of odd jobs, including working at a tax office and as a grape-picker in France. In 1986, he published his first novel, “The Flood,” which received moderate success. However, it wasn’t until 1987, with the release of his second book, “Knots and Crosses,” that Rankin found his calling as a crime fiction writer.

“Knots and Crosses” introduced Inspector John Rebus, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective with a haunted past. The book was an instant hit, and Rebus became a household name, going on to be the central character in most of Rankin’s subsequent books.

Rankin’s writing style is characterized by its gritty realism and social commentary. He often tackles contemporary issues such as political corruption, immigration, and drug abuse in his books, making them more than just typical crime thrillers.

In the 1990s, Rankin’s success continued to grow, with his Rebus series reaching international acclaim. Many of his books have been adapted for television, with John Hannah and later Ken Stott portraying Rebus in a series of popular BBC dramas.

Despite his success, Rankin never forgets his roots, and his books often feature the city of Edinburgh as a character in its own right. He is also an avid supporter of various charities and is known for his work in promoting literacy and supporting independent bookstores.

In 2007, Rankin decided to take a break from Rebus and introduced a new main character, Inspector Malcolm Fox, in his “The Complaints” series. However, after a six-year hiatus, Rebus made a comeback in the 2012 book “Standing in Another Man’s Grave,” followed by “Saints of the Shadow Bible” in 2013, and “Even Dogs in the Wild” in 2015.

In 2020, Rankin announced that he would be retiring Rebus for good in the book “A Song for the Dark Times,” marking the end of the series that has spanned 22 books. However, fans need not despair, as Rankin has also introduced a new series featuring another of his popular characters, Inspector Siobhan Clarke.

Throughout his career, Rankin has received numerous literary awards, including the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger, the highest honor in British crime writing. He has also been awarded an OBE for his services to literature.

As he enters retirement, Rankin leaves behind an impressive legacy, not only as a master of crime fiction but also as a champion for societal issues and a dedicated philanthropist. His books will continue to be enjoyed by readers around the world for years to come, as he has firmly cemented his place as one of the greatest authors of our time.