Writing career kicks off

A MAN is sitting in his flat on Easter Road looking out of the window. A Hibs match has just finished and people are pouring out on to the streets and into shops and takeaways.

It sounds like a typical Saturday afternoon, but this particular Edinburgh resident will soon meet with a brutal end.

The hapless victim is a character in a new novel, The Puppet Master, which promises greed, corruption and blackmail – as well as a murderous mess that must be cleared up by hero of the day, Chief Inspector Mike Barton.

“This scene happens early on in the book and hopefully anyone who’s been around Easter Road at that time will relate to it,” says first time author Ian Gosling.

“I always think the backdrop in books is as important as the characters or the plot, and I wanted to use real places rather than make them up, if possible.”

Edinburgh has been special to the 54-year-old ever since he first visited as a teenager, when he was particularly taken with the open spaces and the coastal nooks of Newhaven and Cramond.

When Ian first moved to Edinburgh to pursue work as a freelance business consultant, little did he know that his favourite bar in the Capital – the historic Oxford Bar on Young Street – would become renowned as the place where the fictional Inspector Rebus and his now world famous author Ian Rankin, also enjoyed a dram or two.

Later, Ian went on to become a huge fan of Mr Rankin, and was so taken with his Rebus series, that he has read all of them twice.

“I’d say I’ve used many of the Rebus books almost as guidebooks, and you learn about places you might not otherwise know about,” he says.

“I’d never been to the museum in my life. Then I read The Falls, which describes the coffins on display there. I went for a look and was amazed by this stunning building I never knew existed.”

The idea of using real backdrops is something he enjoys about Ian Rankin’s novels, and a trait he admits he was happy to emulate in his own work.

“I really like his use of Edinburgh backdrops and how he evokes a sense of place,” says Ian. “In a way, Rebus follows a route in each book.

“You can picture him walking from his flat in Marchmont to St Leonard’s police station. The fact that they are real places adds to the enjoyment.”

Ian first visited Edinburgh in 1969 as part of a hitch-hiking tour round Scotland, and was struck by just how hilly the city was compared with his then-home in Cambridgeshire.

His first job was at the Post Office and, in the late 1980s, he was tasked with running the organisation’s national training team – a job that required frequent trips to Edinburgh.

Ian later relocated to Edinburgh for three years to work as a business consultant for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows.

It was during this time that he bought a flat in Leith, his favourite area in the city – a residence he still owns to this day.

“I love the way you can retreat here after a busy day in town or during the hustle and bustle of the Festival, and relax at the Shore Bar or somewhere,” he adds.

“I don’t like glitzy, noisy, modern pubs and there’s a fantastic choice of traditional pubs around Leith. The area is changing though – my favourite bar was the Cameo which has been renovated and changed out of all recognition. It’s lost a lot of character but I guess that’s just a sign of the times.”

The idea for The Puppet Master came to him when he was lazing on a beach in Spain. He stopped work to concentrate on his writing and he credits his family – his wife of 30 years, Maggie, a mental health nurse, and his children Claire, Sarah and Nick – for encouraging him and helping out by reading drafts. Ian now lives in Rutland County with Maggie but still visits Edinburgh frequently to see his daughter Claire, who works as a registrar in South Queensferry, and to get inspiration for his second novel, which is currently in progress.

&#149 The Puppet Master is published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie on Monday. For more information visit www.gosling.f9.co.uk.

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