Neil Lancaster.
Neil Lancaster.

The Good Books, Neil Lancaster: ‘Ian Rankin is the master of Scottish fiction’

The retired Met police officer turned author on being inspired by Ian Rankin, John Niven’s heartbreaking memoir and Tony Kent as the British David Baldacci.


The first book I remember reading:

When I was about ten, my sister was doing her English O’Levels, and one of the books she was being forced to read was My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell. Up until this point I’d only really read comics, but my Mum threw me the book, and said, ‘I reckon you’ll love this, Neil.’ Well, I did read it, and it frankly blew me away. The story of a middle-class family’s five-year sojourn to Corfu was just entrancing. It made me realise what the written word could do. It was just so warm, and stunningly descriptive that I was transported to 1930s Corfu. I love it so much.

A book I recommend to everyone:

Running Blind, by Desmond Bagley. Published in 1970, it is the story of a lapsed spy, coerced into ‘one final mission’ in Iceland. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and the book is a masterpiece of tension, intrigue, and rip-roaring pace. Bagley was perhaps lesser known than his contemporaries in the classic 1970s thrillers, but for me, he was the master. I read, and re-read that book many times, and I believe it planted the desire, deep in me, to become a writer. It just took 40 years before I began that journey.

The best three books I have read in the last year:

Finding Sophie, by Imran Mahmood. A truly breathtakingly tense, taut and beautifully written thriller, by one of the best writers out there at the moment. The Shadow Network, by Tony Kent. In my opinion, Tony Kent is the British David Baldacci, who like Kent is a practicing lawyer. The Shadow Network is a lightening paced conspiracy thriller in his Michael Devlin series and really won’t let you put it down until you’ve finished. Oh Brother, by John Niven. This is a truly brilliant, yet heartbreaking memoir that explores the author’s life growing up in a typical working-class family in Scotland. It manages to be wonderfully nostalgic, and yet terribly sad when Niven describes the circumstances of his brother’s tragic suicide, and his struggles to come to terms with this. An exceptional piece of work.

An author who has inspired me:

Ian Rankin is the master of Scottish fiction. He just keeps knocking it out of the park, year after year, and Rebus is the absolute pinnacle of a character-based series. The stories are always expertly plotted, brilliantly written, and compelling, but the reason we all love them so much is that we really want to know what Rebus has been up to. Such an iconic character. One of my proudest moments is when Ian read my first Max Craigie book, and described it as ‘Think Reacher fronting Line of Duty.’

My favourite place to read:

On my big, comfy sofa, in front of a roaring fire, with my dog by my side.


Neil Lancaster was a police officer in The Met until 2015. He now lives in the Scottish Highlands where he writes crime and thriller novels. The Devil You Know by Neil Lancaster is published by HQ, HarperCollins on the 28 March in Hardback, eBook and audiobook. It can be purchased here.

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