Crime writer does it by the books
A BOOKSHOP worker turned author has won the backing of top crime writer Ian Rankin for his first novel.
Edinburgh-based Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus series, has been urging readers to buy Two-way Split, which has become a rival to the celebrated author’s own works.
Allan Guthrie wrote the novel while working at the West End branch of Waterstone’s on Princes Street. It tells the dark story of bank robberies and revenge killings in the heart of the Capital.
The stock room manager, described by some critics as "an early Ian Rankin", has acquired a fan in the Rebus creator.
Rankin urged his recent audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to read Mr Guthrie’s new book.
"There’s a very good writer who works at Waterstone’s. You should seek him out and buy his book," he told his fans.
"As a first novel it definitely shows a lot of promise. He is part of an emerging trend of good Scottish crime writers."
Rankin also said he was happy for comparisons to be made between himself and the new pretender to his throne.
"That’s fine for him to be compared to me. Anything to help him sell a few more books," he added.
Mr Guthrie, who has worked at the bookshop for nine years, said that he was flabbergasted by such a vote of confidence from "the man himself".
"To receive comments like that from Rankin, I’m flattered to bits. A lot of my characters would certainly be the ones Rebus would be trying to catch," said the 39-year-old from Portobello.
The extra publicity has also improved sales: He added: "There definitely has been an increase in sales. We’ve sold as many in two days as we would normally sell in a week."
Despite such praise, Mr Guthrie has found it hard to secure a UK publishing house.
After spending the last few years being rejected by scores of national publishing houses, he was snapped up by a United States company.
Rankin branded the lack of domestic interest "shocking".
"There is something seriously wrong if a Scottish crime writer such as Guthrie cannot get published in the UK. Every publisher is on the lookout for the next Ian Rankin."
Despite their obvious similarities, Mr Guthrie stressed his work was distinct from Rankin’s.
"There is a division. Mine is more of an American pulp crime novel than a British ‘whodunnit’. Rankin writes from the detective’s point of view of solving a puzzle, a mystery. I write from the criminal’s and victim’s perspective."
Mr Guthrie revealed how difficult it was to lead a double life as a full-time stock room manager and a budding crime writer.
"It will always be difficult, but Waterstone’s were very good. They allowed me to be more flexible with my hours so I could find the time. I managed to fit most of the writing to evenings and weekends and my wife has been very supportive," he said.
Two-way Split, published in June, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger award in 2001, under the title Blithe Psychopaths.
Mr Guthrie will be holding a question and answer session at his Waterstone’s store on September 22 at 6pm.
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