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My apologies to those who were expecting to see glorificus' diary on the Kathleen Mallory series by Carol O’Connell.  Please accept the following in its stead and a promise that it will be re-scheduled as soon as possible.


Ian Rankin received his degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh in 1982. He planned to spend the next few years working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature, but wrote three novels instead.  As a result he is not a Doctor of Scottish Literature, but a writer of it.

From his website:

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America's celebrated Edgar Award for 'Resurrection Men'. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis.

Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh.

A contributor to BBC2's 'Newsnight Review', he also presented his own TV series, 'Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts'. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

During his studies he had to have come across and studied the Caledonian antisyzygy, our theme this evening, and perhaps best described by Maureen M Martin, in her work, The Mighty Scot: Nation, Gender, and the Nineteenth Century Mystique of Scottish Masculinity
(SUNY Press 2009, pg 84):
Writings by Scots on their country’s national psyche and literature often point to what has been called a “Caledonian antisyzygy” - a conflict between rational and romantic, canny and reckless, moralistic and violent, an idea of dueling polarities within one entity that finds fictional expression not just in Stevenson but in Scottish writers such as James Hogg and Walter Scott.

James Hogg is the writer of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which he, a self-educated shepherd, wrote in 1824.  Its ideas and style were such that he wisely published it anonymously.  In reviewing it for Bewildering Stories, Louise Norlie called it
An unclassifiable tale of mystery, murder, religious fanaticism, folklore, horror, and fantasy
It is a story of two brothers who are raised separately, one by the open generous, worldly laird, his father, and the other by the Calvinist Rev Wringhim, a member of a radical sect which believes in the eternal salvation of the Elect and their inability to do anything during their earthly existence that will alter that salvation.  As one of the Elect, Robert, who assumes his guardian's name, feels it is his duty to destroy his brother whom he has been raised to despise.  The novel is told in three voices, the first is the editor who tells a straightforward tale, the second part is from the confession of Robert, and "the short final section is the unearthing of Wringhim’s remains by a group of writers and the discovery of the shocking confessions that were buried with him." (Norlie)

This book is available, without charge, from the Project Gutenberg website and reads remarkably well considering its title, subject matter and age.  I was surprised at the humor.

Although unfinished, I have read enough to recognize the Caledonian antisyzygy of this work in the conflict between the religious morality of Robert and the worldly nature of George, which is at the heart of the conflict between the Scottish Covenanters and the Cavaliers; between those who supported John Knox and his fire breathing Calvinism, and those who created single malt Scotch Whisky.

But wait, there is more, as Ian Rankin has written about The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

This book has been haunting me since student days. It has been an influence on Scottish literature and certainly on my own Inspector Rebus stories. Set in pre-Enlightenment Scotland it concerns a young religious zealot called Robert Wringhim. Convinced by his preacher guardian that he is a member of “the elect,” Wringhim then meets a charismatic stranger by the name of Gil-Martin who convinces him that they should dispatch anyone who has strayed from the path of righteousness. But who is Gil-Martin really? Is he the Devil, or a figment of the anti-hero’s fevered imagination? Very little is what it seems in this complex novel. Nemesis seems to be coming in the shape of two unlikely female detectives, but the fates have other plans for Wringhim. A psychological horror story, this also works as a novel of stalking, grooming, and serial killing.

Ian Rankin, The Daily Beast (3/31/2011)


Also available from Project Gutenberg without charge is Robert Louis Stevenson's The Stange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In a forward to a 2010 paperback edition of this 1886 classic, Ian Rankin says,

As a writer, Stevenson wanted to explore the various facets of human nature. Was civilisation just a very thin veneer? Did you dare to scratch its surface and reveal the truth beneath? We are all capable of committing evil acts – look at the atrocities meted out in wartime. Killers talk about the "red mist" that descends, then lifts, leaving them wondering how they could have done such terrible deeds. Religious believers talk of "possession". Psychopaths can appear to be just like you and me for the most part of their lives, but then suddenly flip, before flipping back again.

This is an important book because it discusses a very basic problem which is still (and forever) with us – how can we do such terrible things to each other? Jekyll feels hidebound in his own skin, made to comply with the rigid conventions of his class and society. Hyde frees him from this, but the sensation of liberation becomes addictive. It is no accident that Hyde is described as being much younger than Jekyll. Jekyll himself is a man of 50, regretting times past and opportunities missed. The folly of youth – that sense of possibility and invincibility – is regained when he becomes Edward Hyde.

This book, then, is a morality tale as well as a stark warning. It's also every bit as claustrophobic, creepy and chilling as when it first saw the light of day over a century ago.

If you have only ever seen a film of this novel, or read it last in school, it is well worth your time to read it again.  This story of a doctor's experiment in separating the good and evil of his nature, has lost none of its gothic appeal over time and will provide added depth to your reading of any Scottish crime fiction or tartan noir.
The most popular allegorical reading in our own day suggests that, although the action is set in Soho, the atmosphere is really that of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and RLS's birthplace. In this view, the moral focus of the story is the Scottish character, burdened by dual nationality (Scottish and British), caught between two tongues (Scots and English), its instinctive spontaneity repressed by a Calvinistic church - the very church that once came between Stevenson and his father, and caused a split in the family. Edinburgh is a city starkly divided into two: the foggy old town up on the hill, once the site of colourful crimes such as bodysnatching and of public hangings in the Grassmarket; and the splendid New Town to the north, on the other side of the then newly laid railway tracks. In Glasgow, where I grew up, the common perception of Edinburgh was of a cloudy inner life (old town) shielded by a genteel exterior (New Town). It was - how could you avoid saying so? - a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of place.

James Campbell in The Guardian, (Friday 12 December 2008)

More on the Caledonian antisyzygy from Martin:
Stevenson’s interest in the unity of Scottish polarities parallels his approach to the internal conflict between good and evil, and his body of work suggests that each of these concerns influenced how he sought to understand and express the other.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not about a good man taken over by an evil persona but about the inseparable coexistence of evil and good in the same person.
It is Dr Jekyll who says:
and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both;


And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome.  This, too, was myself.

Good and evil in one man.  In all men.

Knots and Crosses
'And in Edinburgh of all places. I mean, you never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburgh, do you...?'

That sort of thing... is the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls. And now a third is missing, presumably gone to the same sad end. Detective Sergeant John Rebus, smoking and drinking too much, his own young daughter spirited away south by his disenchanted wife, is one of many policemen hunting the killer. And then the messages begin to arrive: knotted string and matchstick crosses - taunting Rebus with pieces of a puzzle only he can solve.

"The girl screamed once, only the once."

Thus begins Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin.  This one sentence begins on the note of the duality discussed above  "The girl screamed once" is a phrase full of horror and evil.  "Only the once" has the lyrical rhythm of the Scottish tongue that reminds me of my grandmother and her endless tea, and seems to be almost awkward juxtaposed against the agony and fear of the scream.  The contrast between good and evil that exists in each of us runs throughout Scottish literature and Knots and Crosses.

The title refers to the mysterious clues that come to Detective Sergent John Rebus in the form of matchstick crosses and twine knots.  It is also a homophone for the game of noughts and crosses, better known in the States as tic-tac-toe. More duality.

The search for the killer in Knots and Crosses takes one deep into what is one of the main characters in most of Rankin's novels, the city of Edinburgh itself: "the foggy old town up on the hill ... and the splendid New Town to the north."  He makes Edinburgh come alive in a way that made me feel I had been there before when I first set foot on the platform at Waverley Station.

But the search also takes one deep into the character, history and memory of John Rebus himself.  Once an SAS officer, he underwent training and experiences that trouble him still. Some experiences were so painful and buried so deep that the reader has to wonder what havoc they must wreak in his soul and his psyche.  

A quick outline of Rebus risks making him seem no different from many other cop heroes: he has a busted marriage in his past and a distant relationship with his daughter; he's disillusioned if not yet wholly cynical; he's willing to break the rules in order to get the job done; he commands the fierce loyalty of the cops who work with him and the ire of his superiors. What distinguishes Rebus is that he may just be the warmest recurring character in contemporary hard-boiled fiction. A borderline alcoholic and a heavy smoker, he is, emotionally and intellectually, anything but a wreck. Affable, more sadly resigned than possessed of a hair-trigger temper, Rebus carries an air of doughy melancholy balanced by his sarcasm. ... He also has the sort of smart mouth that sounds great coming from private detectives but always winds up getting a cop in trouble.

Charles Taylor, for the NY Times, February 22, 2004

And a final word about Tartan Noir and some references to other Scottish crime writers of that variety.
THERE'S an inescapably condescending tinge to the phrase ''tartan noir,'' devised to describe the contemporary school of Scottish crime writing. It's a touristy phrase, suggesting that there's something quaint about hard-boiled crime fiction that comes from the land of kilts and haggis. The cozy appellation calls up visions of some new niche market of genre fiction, and it gives readers no idea that this crop of Scottish mystery writers, like Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh (who arrived stateside last year with the knockout debut ''The Cutting Room'') and Ian Rankin -- about whose Inspector John Rebus novels the phrase was invented -- is currently doing the strongest work in the form.

Charles Taylor, for the NY Times, February 22, 2004

A good discusion of Tartan Noir, its past present and future can be found in this article.

From the website of the Springfield City Library, which also includes a listing of some of the Scottish crime writers and a brief description of their work:

Tartan Noir is a form of crime fiction particular to Scotland and Scottish writers. It has its roots in Scottish literature but borrows elements from elsewhere, including from the work of James Ellroy and the hardboiled genre. The name itself was coined by Ellroy, who called Ian Rankin "the king of tartan noir" for a book cover.
Books From Scotland provides an overview of Scottish crime novels and breaks them out by location.

And of course, there is always a Wikipedia list.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 3:00 PM The Magic Theater ArkDem14
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
SUN 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUE 8:00 PM Readers & Book Lovers Newsletter Limelite
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
WED 8:00 PM Bookflurries: Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
FRI 9:00 AM Books That Changed My Life etbnc, aravir
FRI 10:00 PM (first of month) Monthly Bookposts AdmiralNaismith
SAT 11:00 AM (fourth of month) Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Welcome to edrie and MichiganChet! Really looking (27+ / 0-)

    forward to your new series!

    Link to earlier books on Monday Murder Mystery Here

    Tentative Schedule:

    02/13/12  jarbyus and the Bill Slider mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
    02/20/12  Iceland!  Frozen Assets and Jar City
    02/27/12  Ancient World Mysteries

    If you are interested in adding to our growing list of books that we have covered by writing a diary about your own favorite genre, writer or book, please let me know either in the comments or by private message.

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 05:07:21 PM PST

  •  Best distinction I've ever hear (18+ / 0-)

    between ROundheads and Cavaliers :

     between those who supported John Knox and his fire breathing Calvinism, and those who created single malt Scotch Whisky.

    Which explains why in all the years I've played in the SCA, I've only ever run into 2 guys who wanted to be Scots Roundheads (one had major issues, and the other was an erudite but obnoxious  extremely rightwing anti-choice anti-first amendment Republican).

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 05:40:17 PM PST

    •  Thanks, it seemed to make the most sense to me, (7+ / 0-)

      And most accurately reflected the two opposites in Scottish history, culture and my family.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:36:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It occurs to me that they actually have a lot in (7+ / 0-)

      common, the centuries not withstanding.

      erudite but obnoxious extremely rightwing anti-choice anti-first amendment Republican

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 09:38:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've never even seen that (4+ / 0-)

      SCAdian Roundheads wouldn't exactly do well at Pennsic.

    •  Its interesting how the religious wars (4+ / 0-)

      affected small villages of people that had lived and intermarried with one another as clan, sept and kin with nobody coming or going more than a days walk away for the best part of a millenia before these Presbyterian disputes arose.

      It seems that suddenly with Mary Queen of Scots, it came to a head and in some places within a few centuries everybody had moved away as a group and village by village gone off to England, the US, Canada, South Africa, Tasmania, New Zealand or Australia.

      One has to wonder if with their "Caledonian antisyzygy" there isn't some spiritual linkage with OWS and their General Assemblies. In Scotland what began with preaching the overthrow of elites and a call to peaceful revolution was channeled thru an excess of religious zeal into something else besides.

      Like Susan from 29 most of the people sharing my surname are Christian and Republican. Leaving out the plethora of redundant adjectives, I'm not sure that all of my family was historically uncultured, at least some of them made single malt scotch, or milled the grain for it, and I'll take that over religion as a comforting invention anyday.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:06:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Highlands tended to be Catholic. (0+ / 0-)

        The Lowlands Protestant and followers of Knox. The Highlands were clan oriented. The Lowlands were merchants and farmers with the exception of the Border Lairds, who were cattle thieves (Nixon and Armstrong come to mind).

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 10:10:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My great grandmother Sarah MacGregor (0+ / 0-)

          was from a different Clan and Sept than my grandmothers Alma Shepherd and Eileen Donovan.

          All had some religious baggage from their upbringing and that of their husbands, which may have led to some of the good natured family quarreling which seems to be in the nature of the Scotch and Irish, but as my father told it the MacGregors were neither merchants nor farmers, they were outlawed.

          The injustice of this was memorable.

          They weren't cattle thieves exactly, they protected cattle in the ancient and honorable manner of the border. Anyway, as clansman they were what amounted to human rent obligated to be provided to some laird or other in time of disputes.

          Eventually when the land they farmed went to the Campbell's through marriage and the dispossessed clans agricultural tenants become millworkers; jointers, carpenters, tavern keepers, protectors of the single malt doing what they had to do to survive.

          Apparently their survival strategy involved the bloody deaths of too many of their enemies so after the battle of Culoden their clan name was proscribed.

          The tips of their knives were blunted and they were prevented from assembling in groups of more than four, this in a time when families often had a dozen or more children.

          They were hunted with dogs and killed for sport so they left Scotland and came to a new world where they could fight Indians and Frenchmen.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 03:49:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Another great diary (12+ / 0-)

    I've already requested three books from the library after reading it.  This series is so addictive.  

    I finished three mysteries this weekend - Sticky Fingers by Nancy Martin, a fun read, Wicked Prey by John Sandford, and The Jaguar by T. Jefferson Parker.  The surprise ending of Parker's book made me appreciate the whole story a lot more.  

  •  Anitsyzygy (14+ / 0-)

    Love learning new words, Susan, thanks.

    Your diary is like a splendid tutorial on the stream of Scottish mystery writing.  I am amazed at how many of the authors mentioned I have read (and enjoyed).  Hat tip to the link to one of our libraries in Massachusetts.  The list they provide is quite extensive, and I will go there for some new stuff.

    I have visited Scotland a few times and have experienced "anatisysygy" in some of my encounters.  "Dour" is the word I would use for some of the people I met; but, then, right around the corner I would find happy, optimistic, and friendly folk.

    When I was on the Isle of Guernsey I stayed in a B&B whose only other guests were from Scotland.  It was interesting to get their take on the separatist movement (they thought Scotland was too small to stand alone), and they tricked me into eating Haggis when I finally found my way to Scotland.  They told me that it was the National Dish, but they would not tell me its origin.   Twasn't too bad.  

    Thanks for the interesting post, and I shall probably try "Justified Sinner."

    Just waitin' around for the new Amy Winehouse album

    by jarbyus on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 06:10:00 PM PST

  •  I think I read about Knots and Crosses somewhere (10+ / 0-)

    on this website. Now I'm hooked into the series (as it should be!). Happens that I'm reading Frozen Assets now, so I'll be ready to check the February 20th offering.  (I have to read it fast because it's due and on hold at the library, and I'm not turning it in until I finish!)

  •  Also by Stevenson (10+ / 0-)

    The “Caledonian antisyzygy” you mention, the "conflict between rational and romantic, canny and reckless, moralistic and violent" makes me think of another work by Robert Louis Stevenson, and probably the only book I've ever read set in Scotland that was actually written by a Scot:  Kidnapped.  Of course here Stevenson deliniates the two sides of Scottish character by separating them into two different characters:  sensible, respectable, law-abiding and sometimes self-righteous David Balfour and the swaggering, romantic, independent rebel, Alan Breck.

    Which of course is a woefully inadequate simplification, but about the best I can do at this time of the night.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:32:04 PM PST

    •  Exactly! Martin spends a lot of time discussing (5+ / 0-)

      Kidnapped in her work quoted above.  There is a clear distinction between the Lowland and the Highland Scots.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:44:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Aside from clan and sept (4+ / 0-)

        Highland Scots made Quisky, the water of life, Lowland Scots made alliances with the English.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:09:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Mysteries on the Moor (4+ / 0-)

        When I was writing my comment above, I thought, "Except that Kidnapped isn't a mystery story, so it doesn't really fit the theme." Then I realized, it certainly is a crime story. The whole plot is instigated by David being kidnapped and his uncle's attempts to defraud him of his inheritance. And in the center of the novel is the Appin Murder, for which Alan and David are wrongfully accused and which hangs over the rest of the adventure.

        Except... in a proper mystery, the protagonists would be trying to uncover the truth of the crime. David would dearly love to get at the truth, but Alan, who seems to know it, is equally determined to withold it, even at the cost of having the chieftain of his clan ultimately take the blame. For complex reasons of clan honor and politics, the truth must never be revealed; and so it is not, not even to the readers.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:43:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Springfield? Are you in Western Mass? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Susan from 29, MT Spaces
    •  Actually, right now I'm in San Diego with a (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces, old wobbly

      bunch of Korean War vets, just got back from a tour of Camp Pendleton which is why I haven't been around all day. Normally we are in the Mojave desert. But Springfield has some really great reading lists and online guides.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 05:18:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sheesh. Just lost my comments. (4+ / 0-)

    Don't know why that happened, but don't want to bore anyone with that!

    Suffice it to say I think this is your best diary in the MMM series. Fascinating and well written. Great description:

    "Only the once" has the lyrical rhythm of the Scottish tongue that reminds me of my grandmother and her endless tea, and seems to be almost awkward juxtaposed against the agony and fear of the scream.
    Loved the Taylor quote about Rankin as well. Was glad I'd found The Complaints (2011) Saturday at the library when I was looking for one of his, thinking it time to try re-reading some of his novels. Now I've got even more appreciation of him though he's been a favorite for many years, thanks to your placing him in context of which I'd had little understanding.

    Last week, you may recall, I mentioned (at length, sorry, but was excited) Margaret Millar. Loved both of the 50's reissued novels. She was very good and I'll be looking for more. Hopefully they've not re-issued them all or I'll get even more (or is it less?) of nothing done.

    Thanks again for a great diary!

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 11:30:23 AM PST

  •  I've read Ian Rankin's first two, and I hope to (4+ / 0-)

    eventually read the rest.

    It's interesting that at first Rankin insisted he was a "novelist," not a writer of "detective fiction," (or as we call them in this country, mysteries). Soon he came to accept the genre label.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here:

    by Kimball Cross on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:27:35 PM PST

  •  I have an anthology featuring ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    ... The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    It also has this story:

    Most of the story is 120 Proof Caledonian Antisyzygy, but I can't say that its ending thrills me much, if at all.

    Robert Wise's movie of the same name, starring Boris Karloff, possesses a little Antisyzygy, but isn't all that well-done (IMHO).
    However -- Wise's ending is a lot more fun than Stevenson's!

    To the last man, to the last plane, to the last bullet - we fight, We Fight, WE FIGHT.

    by MT Spaces on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:11:05 PM PST

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