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Ian Rankin studied literature at Edinburgh University and spent three years of a PhD supposedly studying the Scottish novel attempting to write one of his own.
Those early works, which include his 1986 debut "The Flood," may now have been re-released but it is for his crime fiction and notably Inspector Rebus -- the hard-drinking Edinburgh detective who has featured in 15 best-selling novels since 1987's "Knots and Crosses" -- that Rankin has achieved acclaim.
Unusually for a genre often mired in cliche, Rankin has managed to retain his literary integrity despite satisfying his publishers with a steady supply of bestsellers.
That perhaps has something to do with his intricate Gothic portraits of Edinburgh as, in the words of one reviewer, "an immense, unsleeping graveyard."
Rankin's latest book is "Rebus's Scotland" -- an overlapping personal guide to the places that shaped his literary creation as well as his own life and career. Rankin admits the relationship between character and author has not always been easy.
"I don't like him. He wouldn't like me, I know that he would find me a wishy-washy liberal who has never done a day's work in his life," he says. "He would find me soft. I don't smoke and I don't drink as much as him."
But with Rebus -- who exists in real-time -- approaching 60, Rankin insists he only has two books left before he is pensioned off: "He can then retire and drink himself to death. I don't think I'm going to kill him."