RARA-AVIS: Rankin's Black and Blue

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 21 Jul 2002

I'm reading Ian Rankin's BLACK AND BLUE (1997). Last year I read the next in the series, THE HANGING GARDEN (1998), and there was something about the style I didn't like. I never tried to figure out exactly what, but whatever it was, I don't find it in BLACK AND BLUE. Rankin's got quite a style--I see why they call him the Scottish Ellroy--and I like all the musical references and the Scottish details. Inspector Rebus is a mess, drinking too much, hardly eating, travelling all over Scotland, getting beaten up and suspected of murder, trying to solve four cases at once while avoiding his bosses.

A question: how come Rebus doesn't have a partner? Do the police in Scotland work differently, or is it just Rebus or just this book? I'm used to police travelling in pairs. Rebus is spending most of this book doing things he shouldn't, but even when he was doing a routine murder investigation he didn't have a junior with him,

I saw half of the TV adaptation of this book, and all of the adaptation of THE HANGING GARDEN. They make adequate TV if you haven't read the books, but they're not much if you have. John Hannah's no where near right for the part of Rebus, and they didn't seem to have any budget for music rights. In the book, Rebus would sit and blast the Stones. In the TV version, he'd put on headphones and we'd watch him sit quietly and look out the window. There's none of the internal monologue, either, with Rebus's brain jumping and making connections and matching his surroundings with old songs. On the other hand, it's nice to see the locations and hear the accents.

Rankin's got a web site up at


It says he won the Chandler-Fulbright scholarship in 1992 and he used the money to travel around the US. Does anyone know more about this scholarship? Searching Google turns up some other winners but I didn't see a complete list or any details on who decides the winner.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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