Fiction in 2013…Ian Rankin and John Rebus

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Following on from my previous post on academic books, Progressive Geographies also has a post on Stuart Elden’s fiction reading from 2013. It’s an astounding list. In the comments at the end of the post Stuart reveals that he made a resolution to read more fiction. I’ve been trying to read more fiction where I can, I seem to remember reading somewhere that it might help with writing.

This year I’ve been focusing on Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series. I’ve currently completed the first 10 books in the series (I think there are currently 18 books in total). The previous year I did the same thing for Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

Following a series through gives an interesting sense of history and biography. These re-issued Rebus books all contain a short introduction from the author. These place the books into the biography of the author and reveal some of the sources of inspiration for the novels (or for particular scenes). As most people will know, the Rebus novels are set in Edinburgh. After the first couple of novels Rankin decided to place Rebus into a real Edinburgh, moving him to a real police station and letting him drink in real pubs etc. So the novels have become increasingly embedded into the city landscape. Often the stories are connected to changes to the fabric of the city, to historic landmarks, to stories and myths about the place and to social and political changes in the city. Like Michael Connely’s novels, Rankin’s Rebus novels provide encounters with how the characters lives become a product of their environment. So they have a sociological feel to them. Of course, the narratives and characters drive the books but there is a definite literary geography and sociological imagination at work in the Rebus books.

The most recent book I’ve completed, Dead Souls, was by far the grimmest book. This is quite a competition, the Rebus books are generally very grim and gritty. As with Harry Bosch, the grim experiences weigh on Rebus and he becomes and embodiment of social problems, tensions and hardships. The character has changed in this book, as a result if the accumulation of such inequalities and difficulties. It’s been am excellent series so far. To this point the book Black and Blue has been my favourite (this is the one I’d recommend reading if you don’t want to work through the series). In this book Rebus moves between Edinburgh and Aberdeen to investigate a crime that links into the oil industry and environmental protests.

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