As reader-in-residence at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival it’s my pleasure to tour the libraries of the north annually, to facilitate a discussion about crime fiction through the Big Read initiative. The idea is to reach out to communities; to encourage literacy by getting everyone to read the same novel simultaneously. I’m delighted to share the news that the 2017 title is Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue, a Rebus novel published by Orion.

This title was chosen for a very special reason: Ian Rankin credits Black and Blue as his breakthrough novel. No surprise then that it went on to collect the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival would like to acknowledge the massive contribution Ian has made to the genre by celebrating his phenomenal success in this, his thirtieth anniversary year.

Ian Rankin’s bestsellers have been translated into thirty-six languages worldwide. His awards are too many to list but they include no less than four CWA Dagger Awards; America’s celebrated Edgar Award; the Chandler-Fulbright Award; Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize; the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. He has received the OBE for services to literature. And in 2016 Ian was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Last year our Big Read road trip covered almost a thousand miles and fifteen libraries. Some attendees were introduced to crime fiction for the first time; for others the genre was already an addiction. In either case, we had a lot of fun. So, if you’ve read and enjoyed Ian’s work, pick up a free copy of Black and Blue at participating libraries, read the novel again and come along to your Big Read event. If you’re new to crime fiction, this is your chance to climb aboard the (Re)bus and chat about Ian’s wonderful characters and the intriguing worlds they inhabit. I’d love to see you.

I’m enormously proud to be introducing such an extraordinary author to you. Ian Rankin is one of my all time personal favourites. He introduced me to the wonders of crime fiction when he was a newcomer in the 80s. His writing inspired my own. When I started out, his encouragement and friendship meant a lot to me. These days I may be a fellow crime writer but I’m still a fan at heart. I was thrilled to learn that one of his titles was to be the Big Read 2017.

I hope many will join me in June to honour Ian Rankin, to engage in lively conversation about his multi-layered, brooding investigator, John Rebus, and to shout loudly about a career spanning three decades. Like readers the world over, the crime writing community love Ian. They can join in too by tweeting their memories of Black and Blue on the #BigRead2017 hashtag.

Mari Hannah – @MariWriter