Rankin denies new book exploits real-life tragedy
A FICTIONAL Scottish detective is once again investigating controversial events which bear a striking similarity to real life.
Inspector John Rebus, created by bestselling novelist Ian Rankin, is confronted with his most difficult case yet when he has to investigate the murder of a Kurdish refugee.
The plot is reminiscent of the killing of Firsat Dag in Glasgow in 2001, and the novel also features a Dungavel-type detention centre.
It is not the first time Rankin has based plots in his books on real-life events and courted controversy. Two years ago he came under heavy criticism when a plot line from A Question of Blood was compared to the Dunblane massacre, but he has furiously defended his right to take inspiration from reality.
In the new novel Fleshmarket Close, which Rankin is still writing, Rebus must enter the shadowy world of gangmasters and asylum seekers.
However, the gritty cop must also confront his own past as he finds out he is of Polish descent.
While previous books have tackled issues like bigotry and unemployment, the author admits this is his most political book yet.
He said: "Rebus is investigating the death of an immigrant on a housing estate which looks like it was racially motivated.
"I cannot tell you if it is racially motivated as I am still writing the book.
"The actual name Rebus is Polish I believe, and it leads him to ask about his own past. Most of the research I do involves looking at internet sites and reading newspapers, and extrapolating that information to set it nearer Edinburgh.
"Obviously I have read about Dungavel and what happened to Firsat Dag in Sighthill, but I write fiction.
"In this novel I have my own version of Dungavel, which is set in a fictional part of West Lothian."
While he maintains he is not exploiting real-life tragedies, there is no doubt the novel marks a more political turn for the writer.
He said: "The backgrounds to my Rebus novels have always had a social conscience but at the moment there is this racial tension in Scotland which is the whole reason for writing the book.
"Particularly it is looking at the Home Office immigration policy which seems to be tightening and Jack McConnell saying we need a greater influx of immigrants because we face a declining population.
"We face a de-population and we need people to come to this country. Scotland is a mongrel nation. We have always brought people in from abroad."
Robina Qureshi, director of the charity Positive Action in Housing, welcomed the novelist’s latest work. She said: "Rankin’s novel is excellent news and can only raise the profile of Dungavel across the world."
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