HIS tales of murder and intrigue in the dark heart of Scotland’s capital have long won him an admiring audience.
Now, Ian Rankin has displaced some of the heavyweights of Scottish literature by being named the nation’s favourite writer of all time in a new poll.
The veteran crime writer came above the likes of Robert Burns in a survey of thousands of readers across Britain to mark the final week for entries to the National Young Writers’ Award.
The creator of Inspector Rebus said he was taken aback at the recognition, describing himself as “thrilled” at the accolade, which was a “complete surprise”, and he encouraged young writers looking to follow in his footsteps to enter the competition.
The results of the survey also revealed a love among Scots for the late Iain Banks, who came fourth in the poll.
The rest of the top five was dominated by seminal figures from Scotland’s literary history, with Robert Louis Stevenson coming second, followed by Arthur Conan Doyle. Robert Burns was in fifth position.
Being placed above such writers is the latest endorsement of Rankin’s mass appeal. The 54-year-old is the fifth most borrowed author from Scottish libraries, while the Rebus books account for 10 per cent of all crime novel sales in the UK.
The research also found that Scotland could lay claim to being the most literary part of the UK, with 55 per cent of people north of the Border reading every day for pleasure, compared with 51 per cent in England, 40 per cent in Northern Ireland and 39 per cent in Wales.
Lise McCaffery, curriculum development manager at Explore Learning in Scotland, the tuition provider which commissioned the poll, said: “We are thrilled to discover that we are a nation of readers, but it’s important to encourage our children to realise the rewards of writing, too.
“The novels of Ian Rankin and the classics of Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle are testament to the rich culture and history that we have as a nation.
“The aim of the National Young Writers’ Award is to encourage children to have a go at writing their own stories, inspire their imaginations and help them to really value the joy that it can bring.”
The survey of 2,000 people across the UK – 178 of them in Scotland – was carried out earlier this month. It also suggested that more than eight in ten Scots believe children’s appreciation of Scottish literature is at an all-time low and that they spend far too much time playing games and watching television.
The National Young Writers’ Award is aimed at children aged five to 14 and challenges them to write a 500-word story on the theme “fairytales and fables”. The winning author will be awarded a trip to Disneyland Paris for their family and £500 worth of books for their school.
Since launching six years ago, hundreds of thousands of children all over the country have taken part in the competition.
This year’s initiative will be judged by Liz Pichon, the award-winning illustrator and author of the Tom Gates series of books.
Ms Pichon said: “I’m thrilled to be the judge of this year’s National Young Writers’ Award. Competitions like this are a fantastic way to encourage as many children as possible to put pen to paper and write their own stories.
“I’m really looking forward to reading them so good luck to everyone – and have some fun.”
Previous judges have included some of the UK’s most prolific authors such as Cressida Cowell, Alan Durant and Andy Cope.
Children can enter the contest by filling in an entry form via their local Explore Learning centre or online at www.explorelearning.co.uk/youngwriters. The closing date is 3 June.
Five of Scotland’s favourite authors, past and present, battled it out to be named the choice of today’s readers, with the results as follows:
1 Ian Rankin
2 Robert Louis Stevenson
3 Arthur Conan Doyle
4 Iain Banks
5 Robert Burns