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Ian Rankin with Shane Maloney  /  Crime & pulp

At Melbourne City Conference Centre, the king of tartan noir talks mystery, human nature and the dark side of cities with Shane Maloney.

'To me, the character of a detective is the same as the character of a writer … We’re trying to find the shape from something that seems quite chaotic.'

Ian Rankin

Edinburgh, like Melbourne, is a City of Literature and home to a disproportionate number of brilliant writers – from Muriel Spark, Robert Louis Stevenson, Irvine Welsh, to best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin. Rankin’s most famous fictional creation, Inspector John Rebus, is woven into the city’s character and mythology. The cranky, dram-swilling Rebus has starred in a staggering 21 crime novels set in Edinburgh, written by Rankin over the course of 30 years; in recognition, Edinburgh is this year hosting a festival, RebusFest, to celebrate the anniversary.

But Rankin’s enormous creative output is by no means limited to one series. He has also written plays, graphic novels, featured in TV series and documentaries and even collaborated on an album. Across a huge body of work, Rankin has revealed a gift not just for telling cracking stories, but also for chronicling social shifts in modern-day Scotland.

'All crime fiction forever and a day is predicated on this one question: why do we keep doing terrible things to each other?' says Rankin. 'We can’t answer that question, but we can keep asking that question in different ways, and making you, the reader, think about it. Is it a natural thing about being a human, or living in a capitalist society, that human beings will keep doing things again and again?'

Shane Maloney and Ian Rankin — Photo: Jon Tjhia

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