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Top guns: Britain’s favourite crime writers

American thriller writer James Patterson is very popular with library users in Britain. Not only is he the author of Sail, the most borrowed book last year, but of 17 others on the list of 250 most borrowed books. Most of them, however, were collaborations with other authors.

That leaves the field clear for another American, Patricia Cornwell, to claim the honour of being the favourite crime writer of library users in Britain. She authored five books on the list: The Front, No 7; Book Of The Dead, 22; Scarpetta, 78; At Risk, 81; and Predator, 205.

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Books most borrowed in America, Britain, Singapore

American thriller writer James Patterson is the author whose books are borrowed most often from libraries in America and Britain. Malcolm Gladwell topped the non-fiction list in America with Outliers: The Story of Success, according to Library Journal.com.

American authors dominate the list of 250 books borrowed most often in Britain in 2009.

Patterson is followed by the romantic writers Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel.

Only two of the 10 most borrowed books in Britain were by British writers: The Outcast by Sadie Jones and Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope.

Here are the top 10 lists for Britain, America and Singapore. The Singapore list is for the National Library Board’s financial year 2008.

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Social inequality and sense of place in crime fiction

Ian Rankin fans will enjoy reading his conversation with the Indian communist leader Prakash Karat, who has read all his 17 Inspector Rebus novels and did his Master’s in politics at the University of Edinburgh, in Rankin’s hometown.

Rankin talks about his working-class parents, his being the first from his family to go to university — he read English at the University of Edinburgh — and his early struggles as a writer. Knots and Crosses, his first Rebus novel published in 1987, wasn’t a hit with the critics and readers. Instead, piquantly, he became a crime suspect as the plot resembled a murder case, he says!

Success came only 10 years later with Black and Blue, his eighth Rebus book.

Now, says the Hindu, “Ian Rankin is the best-selling writer of crime fiction in the United Kingdom, accounting for 10 per cent of all its crime book sales.”

The Indian newspaper published his conversation with Karat during his visit to India last month under the headline, “Crime fiction is about social inequality”. You can read it here and here.

The headline is a direct quote from Rankin.

Discussing politics and crime fiction with the Indian communist leader, he says:

I think crime fiction is almost like a product of capitalism. It’s about social inequality. Why do people do bad things to each other? Much of the time, it’s economic. It’s to do with basic human nature — greed, a sense of injustice, other people having things that you want, a sense of grievance that something’s happened at work. That’s what I like about crime fiction specifically. It tells us that the civilised world is just a veneer, a very thin veneer.

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The Complaints: No Rebus but pure Rankin

Police procedurals don’t get better than The Complaints. Ian Rankin is in riveting good form. I couldn’t put down the book until I finished it. And it doesn’t even feature Inspector Rebus, who had his swansong in Exit Music, published in 2007.

The Complaints, published last year, presents a new hero: Inspector Malcolm Fox, also one of Edinburgh’s finest, but not a criminal investigator like Rebus; Fox’s job is to investigate other cops. He is the man from Internal Affairs, or what in Edinburgh is called the Complaints. Here, however, he himself is under investigation, apparently for the murder of his sister’s live-in boyfriend. But, as he fights to clear his name, he discovers he is being framed by dirty cops and gangsters.