Published: 11/12/2013 12:34 - Updated: 11/12/2013 14:19

Ian Rankin's musical inspirations

Written byVideo special

Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin has once again turned to his late friend Jackie Leven for title inspiration.

IAN Rankin makes no secret of his love of music.

As someone whose list of recreations in Who’s Who include being a couch potato and rock music, an established feature of his end of year newsletter is his pick of the albums of the year.

A former punk rocker himself, he used his powers as author to give his old band, the Dancing Pigs, an appearance in his beakthrough novel Black and Blue as a stadium-filling rock band on the level of U2 or the Rolling Stones.

More recently he has collaborated with acts such as A Band Called Quinn and Aidan Moffat (ex-Arab Strap) and even worked with Scottish composer Craig Armstrong on 15 minute opera.

Inevitably music plays a major role in his books, from the classic rock so beloved of Inspector Rebus, to the more cutting edge acts on his colleague Siobhan’s playlist — and when in need of a title, it seems Rankin’s first port of call is his record collection.


Both Rankin’s last two novels, Saints of The Shadow Bible and Standing In Another Man’s Grave, have taken their titles from songs by the late Jackie Leven — although the later is actually a misreading of the song Standing in Another Man’s Rain.

The two fellow Fifers — Rankin from Cardenden and Leven from over the hill in Glenrothes — collaborated on a stage show and album, Jackie Leven Said, built around a Rankin short story inspired in turn by one of Leven’s songs.

Leven even provided a theme song for Rankin’s most famous character in The Haunting of John Rebus.



There may be a Radiohead song of the same name, but when he wanted a title for what many feared would be the final Rebus novel, the one where he has to leave the police force, Rankin turned to Exit Music, the debut solo album from Steven Lindsay.

Lindsay was initially best known as frontman of Airdrie band The Big Dish and, like Rankin, is also a sometime collaborator with Craig Armstrong.




Rankin’s favourite musical period might just be the 1970s, so for a crime writer the dark gothic rock of Bauhaus seems a suitable fit.

Dark Entries is the title that almost got away. A number of times Rankin suggested it as a possible name for a Rebus book, but each time it was rejected.

Eventually it found a home with Rankin’s one graphic novel to date, his tale of DC’s manipulative urban warlock, John Constantine, in a story that puts a truly hellish spin on the reality television craze.


More gloomy rock seemingly tailor-made for dark stories of crime and death. Rankin borrowed Dead Souls — itself the title of a Nikolai Gogol novel — for a 1999 Rebus tale that involves our favourite Edinburgh cop in the search for an old girlfriend’s missing son and a returning convicted killer.


No band has provided Rankin with more titles than Sir Mick and pals.

Let It Bleed, Black and Blue and the short story collection Beggar’s Banquet are all Stones derived titles.

Rankin made another nod to the band in his co-write with Aidan Moffat, The Sixth Stone, a tribute to the band’s Fife-born co-founder Ian Stewart.

Saints of The Shadow Bible is out now from Orion Books. Ian Rankin will be signing copies at Waterstones' Inverness branch from 11am on Saturday 14th December.

< Back
Reddit Facebook Digg Twitter Bebo