Crime writers are denied prizes by literary snobs, says Rankin

His gritty detective novels have sold an estimated 17 million copies worldwide, yet the Scottish writer Ian Rankin believes that "literary snobs" turn up their noses when it comes to crime fiction.

The Edinburgh-based author and creator of the hugely successful John Rebus books has lambasted critics who ignore the crime genre.

He said: "Most of us [crime writers] are selling much more than any more 'literary' author could hope for so they can be as snooty as they like.

"The best crime writing is as good as anything else in the literary canon, and right now crime writers around the world are confronting society's deepest problems, worries and uncertainties in a way the 'literary' novel sometimes avoids."

His comments were in response to the question of whether a crime novel is ever likely to win the Man Booker prize, which is the most prestigious fiction award in Britain.

He said: "We've always had the segregation between literary fiction and crime.

"We could say the same about science fiction and historical fiction - they are never taken that seriously.

"I think it starts with what you study at university.

"But now that's changing and crime novels are appearing on reading lists. So perhaps the snobbery will end."

Ever since the first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, in 1987, the Edinburgh detective has seduced millions of readers by portraying a seedier side of the genteel Scottish capital.

Detective Inspector John Rebus, the overweight, alcoholic, chain-smoking sleuth, has been the hero of 15 books and a television series starring John Hannah. Two more television adaptations, featuring a new star, Ken Stott, as the famous detective, will be shown on ITV in the new year.

In Scotland, the surly Lothian and Borders police officer has become a national treasure and, with around 10 per cent of all UK crime fiction sales, has helped to put modern Scottish fiction on the map. His Rebus books have now been translated into 22 languages and Rankin won the Gold Dagger for Fiction in 1997 for his novel Black and Blue.

Rankin said: "Authors would be lying if they said prizes don't matter and prizes are a recognition of the genre's worth, another step out of the ghetto."

He added: "People aren't as snobby about crime books as they used to be, but they still aren't taken as seriously as some people think they ought to be.

"But then, crime authors can just say look at my sales figures and weep!"

He said that his books had probably been considered for the Man Booker prize, which is currently worth £50,000. "I'm sure I've got looked at by the Booker judges from time to time," he said. "And if they gave me a Booker, I doubt I'd say no. I'm not that stupid!"

But Rankin said he hoped that the next generation of authors and critics would be more open minded as universities began to include crime books on their reading lists.

Crime writers of the century

* Julian Barnes, three time Booker shortlisted, has written crime novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

* Crime novels by Patricia Cornwell (right) , featuring forensic scientist Dr Kay Scarpetta, top the bestseller lists. Her non-fiction book, Portrait of a Killerclaims Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

* James Ellroy's 18 crime novels include LA Confidential. The murder of his mother was the subject of his 1996 non-fiction My Dark Places.

* P D James has written more than 20 books, won many crime awards and been shortlisted for the WH Smith Literary Award. She sits in the House of Lords.

* Val McDermid's Report for Murder, the first of 22 novels, appeared in 1987, and introduced her heroine, the lesbian journalist Lindsey Gordon.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent