Improvisational Genius

Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Ian Rankin's "Standing in Another Man's Grave"

Like his fictional detective John Rebus, Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin works by instinct, jotting down ideas, hoping that one will fire his imagination enough to constitute a theme or a plot. "I make it up as I go along," he says. "When I start a book, I've got no sense of where it's going to go. I don't know who the killer is, I don't know how the characters connect to each other until I start writing."

His new novel, Standing in Another Man's Grave, exemplifies his method (or lack...

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