Born 28 April 1960 in Cardenden, Fife, Rankin attended Beath High School, Cowdenbeath. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he moved to Tottenham, London for four years and then rural France for six while he developed his career as a novelist. He was a literature tutor at the University of Edinburgh, where he retains an involvement with the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Before becoming a full-time novelist he worked as a grape-picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician.
Rankin did not set out to be a crime writer. He thought his first novels Knots and Crosses and Hide and Seek were mainstream books, more in keeping with the Scottish traditions of Robert Louis Stevenson and even Muriel Spark (the subject of Rankin's uncompleted Ph.D. thesis).
He was disconcerted by their classification as genre fiction. Scottish novelist Allan Massie, who tutored Rankin while Massie was writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh, reassured him by saying, who would want to be a dry academic writer when "they could be John Buchan?"
Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels are set mainly in Edinburgh. They are considered major contributions to the Tartan Noir genre. Ten of the novels were adapted as a television series on ITV, starring John Hannah as Rebus in Series 1 and 2, with Ken Stott taking on the role for Series 3-5.
In 2009, Rankin donated the short story "Fieldwork" to Oxfam's Ox-Tales project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Rankin's story was published in the Earth collection.
In 2009 Rankin stated on Radio Five Live that he would start work on a five or six-issue run on the comic book Hellblazer, although he may turn the story into a stand-alone graphic novel instead. The Vertigo Comics panel at WonderCon 2009 confirmed that the story would be published as a graphic novel called Dark Entries, the second release from the company's new Vertigo Crime imprint.
He is a regular contributor to the BBC Two arts programme Newsnight Review. His 3-part documentary series on the subject of evil was broadcast on Channel 4 in December 2002. In 2005 he presented a 30-minute documentary on BBC Four called Rankin on the Staircase, in which he investigated the relationship between real-life cases and crime fiction. It was loosely based on the Michael Peterson murder case, as covered in Jean-Xavier Lestrade's documentary series Death on the Staircase. The same year he collaborated with folk musician Jackie Leven on the album Jackie Leven Said.
In 2007, Rankin appeared in programmes for BBC Four exploring the origins of his alter-ego character, John Rebus. Titled "Ian Rankin's Hidden Edinburgh" and "Ian Rankin Investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," Rankin looks at the origins of the character and the events that led to his creation.
In the TV show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, he takes a trip through Edinburgh with writer/cook Anthony Bourdain.
He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Miranda and their two sons Jack and Kit.
Awards and honours
Elected Hawthornden Fellow
Won the Chandler-Fulbright Award.
Two Crime Writers' Association (CWA) Dagger prizes for short stories
1997 the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction for Black and Blue (which was also short-listed for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel).
2002, made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Golden Jubilee Queen's Birthday Honours for services to literature.
2004, Edgar Award for Resurrection Men.
2005, CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger to mark a lifetime's achievement in crime writing.
2008, ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Author of the Year, for Exit Music.
He has honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Abertay Dundee, the University of St Andrews and, in 2005, from the University of Hull.
Rankin's novel Exit Music was shortlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award 2009.
To date he has written at least 25 novels, two short story collections, one Original Graphic Novel and a non-fiction book. He has also written an entry in Quick Reads 2009.
1986 The Flood
1987 Knots and Crosses - first Inspector Rebus novel
1991 Hide and Seek second Inspector Rebus novel
1992 Tooth and Nail third Inspector Rebus novel
Strip Jack 4th Inspector Rebus novel
A Good Hanging and Other Stories Short Stories
1993 Witch Hunt (writing as Jack Harvey)
The Black Book 5th Inspector Rebus novel
1994 Bleeding Hearts (writing as Jack Harvey)
Mortal Causes 6th Inspector Rebus novel
1995 Blood Hunt (writing as Jack Harvey)
Let it Bleed 7th Inspector Rebus novel
1997 Black and Blue 8th Inspector Rebus novel
(won Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction)
1998 The Hanging Garden 9th Inspector Rebus novel
1999 Dead Souls 10th Inspector Rebus novel
2000 Set in Darkness 11th Inspector Rebus novel
2001 The Falls 12th Inspector Rebus novel
2002 Resurrection Men 13th Inspector Rebus novel
(won The Edgar Award )
Beggars Banquet Short Stories
2004 Fleshmarket Close 15th Inspector Rebus novel
2005 Rebus's Scotland: A Personal Journey (Non-Fiction) Awarded CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger
2006 The Naming of the Dead 16th Inspector Rebus novel
2007 Exit Music 17th Inspector Rebus novel
(won ITV3 Crime Thriller Award)
2009 A Cool Head Quick Reads 2009
The Complaints First Malcolm Fox novel
Dark Entries Vertigo Crime featuring John Constantine (Hellblazer)
2011 The Impossible Dead second Malcolm Fox novel
2012 Standing in Another Man's Grave 18th Inspector Rebus and third Malcolm Fox novel