Who’s the King of Scottish Noir? Ian Rankin. Hands down. Some might say Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1886, but I see him as the father. In any case, Rankin’s noir output far surpasses that of Stevenson.
Take Rankin’s Inspector Rebus opus. John Rebus is a hard-edge, no-nonsense police detective with a philosopher’s head and heart. He doesn’t always play by the rules. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
In the Rebus novels, mostly set in or near Edinburgh, Rankin deploys banter to counter the bleak reality of Scottish crime. He portrays tough criminals who are tougher men. The cops who hunt them are just as tough. Aye, but there’s humour too, of the Scottish ilk. Gruff, understated and, given the juxtaposition, doubly funny.
At times, the plotting and crime MOs seem over-the-top. Some readers find the storylines overly bleak and depressing. They are cut from the cloth of real life. If you read a Rankin novel, you’ll get punched in the gut, you’ll rail at what humans do to humans. However, if you’re like me, you’ll keep reading. Ye can’nae stop. The King of Scottish Noir will hook you.
See Wikipedia for more on Ian Rankin and his twenty-plus Rebus novels.
A few weeks ago, I started reading Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – it’s been collecting dust for years. The six-volume opus brought to mind the decline of a current empire. I’m not gloating. I love the USA. I spent many happy years there. It’s a chaotic yet vibrant democracy, born of lofty ideals but beset by schisms.
Thinking of the contemporary strife, I see no easy path forward. The Liberty Bell is breaking apart. The USA is going to endure more strife. I read Gibbon’s opus hoping to learn things from the Roman decline. I didn’t find many. Gibbon is a past master, but, if you’re looking for modern parallels, give him a miss.
Here’s a gross oversimplification of his opus: military power is power. Every volume highlights martial prowess. The Romans limited their domain to a relatively defensible area, roughly modern-day Western Europe minus Scandinavia, believing their military reach should not exceed their grasp. America is as much a cultural and commercial power as a military power, yet it has bases all over the world. If the British Empire is an example, America will soon relinquish many of them.
The American Empire is declining faster than the British, Roman, Aztec, Incan, or Persian Empires, not to mention many others. Reading Gibbon doesn’t provide much insight into why, other than to suggest that entropy always follows cohesion. The centre does not hold for long. Can’t argue with that.
Final thought. America’s not going anywhere. The end of an empire doesn’t mean the end of a nation.
Bay of Blood retells the story of Tom Thomson’s mysterious death.
“There are many clever details in Potter’s Bay of Bloodwith close parallels to Thomson’s life and death (1917). However, Potter takes his readers on a fascinating 21st-century chase, with bells and whistles never dreamt of 100 years ago.” ~ Dr. Sherrill Grace, UBC Killam Professor Emerita and Thomson Scholar.
Bay of Blood is available from your favourite book vendor. Ebook $3.95 USD; print book $14.95 USD. The print book is sold at select Chapters/Indigo and Coles locations, as well as at indie bookstores. If you prefer online vendors, Bay of Blood print books and Ebooks are available from:
Click here for the audio of my CBC Radio One interview on ‘Ontario Morning.’
‘OrilliaMatters’ Press Release: Novel based on bizarre death of Canadian icon set in Georgian Bay.
Bay of Blood, a new novel set in Georgian Bay, is based on the mysterious death of renowned Canadian painter Tom Thomson.
The book’s idea came to author Andy Potter when he was watching a documentary about Thomson’s life and mysterious death called West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. This would make a great novel, Potter thought. Then he thought, No, it wouldn’t. You can’t fly too close to the Tom Thomson myth. It’s sacred. He’s a Canadian icon.
So, Potter wrote a mystery novel based on Thomson’s death. Thomson died on July 8, 1917. The famous painter murdered in Bay of Blood died on July 8, 2017. There are other similarities, but the painter in the novel is not Thomson, and he’s not the main character. The novel’s main character is OPP Detective Sergeant Eva Naslund.