Ian Rankin: Comics are a ‘gateway drug to novels and storytelling’

Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin admitted he grew up stealing notepads from school to scribble stories in and described the Beano and others comics as a 'gateway drug' for literature.

Ian Rankin reveals his love of comic books and says they are an affordable 'gateway drug' to reading and storytelling (Photo: Ian Georgeson).
Ian Rankin reveals his love of comic books and says they are an affordable 'gateway drug' to reading and storytelling (Photo: Ian Georgeson).

Rankin, 60, whose Rebus novels are international bestsellers said he grew up in a house with barely any books but fed his passion for reading with comic books.

The Fife-born author who now lives in Edinburgh described comics as 'affordable literacy for kids', and said writing is like 'playing with his imaginary friends.’

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Rankin said: "Comics used to be affordable literacy for kids.

Handwritten notes from Ian Rankin reveal how he saw the Inspector Rebus books as his apprenticeship as a writer.

"They were a few pennies and for a few pennies you'd be reading a story that would keep you occupied for a while and you could then swap them with your friends.

"We didn't have many books in the house, neither of my parents was a reader, but I was allowed to indulge my hunger for comics and I would get seven or eight a week.

"There was no bookshop in the village but there was a newsagents that sold comics and it was the Dandy and the Beano, the Victor and the Hotspur, then later it was 2000 AD.

"I'm still a huge fan of comic books. I think it's a gateway drug to novels and a gateway drug to storytelling per se."

Speaking to the Blank podcast, he said he hid his enthusiasm for writing to avoid being perceived as 'weird' by friends and family in the coal-mining village Cardenden.

He added: "When I started writing in my early teens, about 1973-74, it was in stolen school jotters, the lined jotters you got for doing your schoolwork in.

"I would nick them from the English class and write stories.

"As soon as I could, I got a typewriter, a little portable typewriter I got from my sister's mail order catalogue and was supposed to pay her back 50p a week or something."

Rankin commented that he was only financially secure when he was 40 with his Rebus novels.

He added: "Thank God it did as this is the only thing I've ever wanted to do.

"I find it therapeutic, I find it cathartic and I find it good fun.

"It's basically me being a kid again, playing with my imaginary friends."

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