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Updated: January 27, 2010 12:59 IST

‘Writing is like therapy’

Ajai Sreevatsan
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Ian Rankin, crime writer, talks about his latest book 'The Complaints' in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo:S.R. Raghunathan
The Hindu Ian Rankin, crime writer, talks about his latest book 'The Complaints' in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo:S.R. Raghunathan

“I believe in justice, but I’m not always sure of what justice is. There is a context to every crime. It never exists in a vacuum. In real life, unlike a novel, there is no clear ending,” said Ian Rankin, UK’s best-selling crime writer.

Literature is like playing God, he says, as it gives one the power over life and death of characters. “Why would someone go out and do something like the Mumbai terrorist attacks?

Literature helps me make sense of the world by getting into the minds of the characters involved. I am confused about things which happen around me and writing is like therapy to me.”

He was speaking at ‘Lit Sutra – U.K. India literary conversations’ organised by the British Council here on Tuesday.

Ian Rankin, acclaimed for his Inspector John Rebus detective series, wrote his first novel when he was aspiring to be a professor of English literature and was distraught to see his book being placed in the crime section.

“I moved the books from the crime to classics section, but the relocation was noticed and set right by the store staff the very next day. Over the years I’ve realised that crime fiction is as valid as literature. It takes on big moral questions and themes,” said Mr. Rankin.

Having decided to write novels that his father, who lived in a mining town where the nearest book store was six or seven miles away, would read, he decided to use the detective as a means to look at society.

“A detective unlike most characters has access to a wide range of people. One day, he is investigating a petty crime and the next he might be unravelling corruption in the corridors of power. Looking from his perspective is like using a scalpel to dissect the underside of society,” said Mr.Rankin.

As he tries to explore themes based on real incidents and the intrinsic potential in everyone to do harm, he feels “though writers can’t change the world, they can affect the course of an argument by getting people interested in a problem.”

So until the utopia of a crimeless society becomes a reality, Mr. Rankin said that writers like him would continue their quest for understanding events and constantly search for that “perfect novel, which provides an insight into our society and ourselves”.

His talk was followed by a book-signing event. He also interacted with readers at the function in Landmark.

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