Author of "Far-Fetched Fiction". Rankin's works are best described as completely insane. Mostly they have a plot of sorts, but beyond that anything can happen. He's particularly fond of No Fourth Wall moments and Shooting The Shaggy Dog. His writing style consists almost entirely of Sophisticated as Hell.
Although his books can be divided fairly firmly into series, most of them have Crossover characters, and Running Gags that follow from one series to another, either because of a tradition, or an old charter or something, or else because of the transperambulation of pseudocosmic antimatter. If it wasn't for all the Negative Continuity it might even count as Canon Welding.
One of the books, The Brightonomicon, received a full cast audio dramatisation in 2008, starring some comedic celebrities such as Andy Serkis and Mark Wing-Davey. It starred David Warner as Hugo Rune (the Cosmic Dick) and Rupert Degas as Rizla aka Jim Pooley.
The series include (more to be added):
The Brentford Trilogy - Nine volumes (three more than the galaxy's second-largest trilogy), detailing the adventures of two layabouts named Jim Pooley and John O'Mally in an area of West London which comes under attack from supernatural forces more than you'd expect.
The books are:
- The Antipope (1981)
- The Brentford Triangle (1982)
- East of Ealing (1984)
- The Sprouts of Wrath (1988)
- The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (1997)
- Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (2000)
- Knees Up Mother Earth (2004)
- The Brightonomicon (2005)
- Retromancer (2009)
- The Educated Ape
The Brentford Trilogy contains examples of:
- Aleister Crowley: The Brightonomicon keeps scattering throwaway references.. "Do wotcha like is the whole of the law." "I am perplexed". And there is the suit of BOLESKINE tweednote
- Aliens in Brentford: Among other things.
- The Anti-Christ: In fact, several.
- Bizarre and Improbable Golf Game: Allotment Golf, and leading up to it, the antics which saw our heroes barred from every club in the county.
- Canine Companion: Young Chips to Old Pete
- City of Adventure: Brentford
- Clone Jesus: In Brentford Chainstore Massacre. They're twins. One's evil.
- Crazy-Prepared: It takes a lot to catch Professor Slocombe off guard. Among other things, he can see through his eyelids.
- Crossover:Knees Up Mother Earth is also the second book in the Witches of Chiswick trilogy
- Finger Poke of Doom: Dimac, the world's most lethal martial art, which can maim or disfigure an opponent with the mere pressure of a fingertip.
- Generation Xerox: In Brentford Chainstore Massacre it turns out a long line of Omalleys and Pooleys have been assassinating each other over the Brentford Scrolls. The friendship between the current versions is a Screw Destiny.
- Grumpy Old Man: Old Pete.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Mahatma Campbell. Fighting off Cthulhu. SINGLE-HANDEDLY.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: John and Jim. The author claims that every man has a "bestest friend" whom they "love in a manly, mannish way".
- Kill and Replace: Happens to the entire cast except for Jim in East of Ealing. Fortunately, everything is back to normal by the time the next book begins, albeit likely because Ealing ended with Jim in the past in a position to prevent the devastation.
- Lazy Bum: John and Jim.
- Literal Metaphor: When Rune says that Danbury Collins' lectures are always a riot. One duly ensues.
- Local Hangout: The saloon bar of the Flying Swan.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: When a zulu warrior goes up in smoke on the 7.15 bus, the public response is along the lines of "Meh, that was just Spontaneous Combustion. Could have happened anywhere."
- Mad Scientist: Norman. He creates a perpetual motion machine to power a robotic Norman...which gives him more time to work on building a time machine. He has also teleported the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Brentford football ground and calculated the location of the Great Pit. It's in his kitchenette.
- Raised Catholic: Johns relationship with the faith is complex. In The Brentford Triangle he claims that the Churchs answers only raised more questions for him, but he is willing to go toe-to-toe with the demonic anti-pope in The Antipope on the grounds that Im a Catholic. Not a good one, but a Catholic nonetheless. He is also listed as Catholic in his Army record.
- Updated Re-release: The Sprouts of Wrath had a rewritten ending for the Corgi edition, due to the author not being happy with ending the book in a sad way.
- Self-Insert Fic: The author has said in several interviews that he based Jim Pooley on himself and that Hugo Rune was based on his father (who incidentally knew Aleister Crowley). He also said that when he finished writing 'The Brightonomicon' he realized that he'd written a story about his father and himself having an adventure.
- Serious Business: Celebrating the Millennium in 1997 and saving Brentford FC football grounds, among others.
- Sherlock Holmes: Appears in East of Ealing
- The Constant: Professor Slocombe. It's implied that he has been the Comte De Saint Germain and Merlin, among others. He is present when Norman travels back in time in East Of Ealing as well as Sherlock Holmes recalling working with him more than a century ago in the same book.
- Tonto Talk: Paul and Barry Geronimo.
- Took a Level in Badass: Archroy evolves from Chew Toy to globetrotting Dimac master in The Antipope, while Soap Distant, a demented Hollow Earther presumed dead in the same book, returns in later books as a valued ally.
- Tunnel King: Soap Distant, like his father before him, a Flat Earther looking for the underground kingdom of Ridgijenpo or something.
The Armageddon Trilogy - This one is only three volumes, which starts off After the End, and gets steadily weirder as Rex Mundi encounters Elvis and his talking Time Sprout, Barry, leading to numerous misadventures.
The books are:
- Armageddon: The Musical (1988)
- They Came and Ate Us (Armageddon II: The B Movie) (1991)
- The Suburban Book of the Dead (Armageddon III: The Remake) (1992)
They contain examples of:
- Alternate History: The Suburban Book of the Dead is set partly in a timeline created by Elvis.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: plant-based technology.
- Church of Happyology: One of the three religious leaders/TV execs that run the world is L. Ron Hubbard the 23rd, although he isn't a significant part of the plot.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Spoofed.
- Deus ex Machina: Played for laughs.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: I and III have two very different books called The Suburban Book of the Dead. II introduces Hugo Rune and The Book of Ultimate Truths.
- Played with somewhat, as excerpts from The Book of Ultimate Truth are accompanied by quotes from the work of Sir John Rimmer that try to discredit them, which ultimately leads to Hugo Rune complaining about it.
- Exposition of Immortality: During They Came and Ate Us, Johnathan points out that not only did he recognise Elvis, despite his wig and glasses, his aliases weren't exactly concealing, either. "Theodore Henry Edward King? T H E King? Mr No-ah Never?"
- Fridge Logic: At the end of the first book, Elvis points out that it doesn't make any sense.
- Meaningful Name: Rex Mundi, and his sister Gloria. Oh, and President Wormwood.
- Metafictional Title: The Suburban Book of the Dead: Armageddon III: The Remake is named after The Suburban Book of the Dead, a religious tome within the book ... but which turns out not to be the same Suburban Book Of The Dead that appeared in Armageddon: The Musical.
- Mind Screw: While this applies to some degree to everything Rankin has written, Armageddon 2 takes the cake, paints it pink, and wears it like a hat while running naked down the street to tell its aunt all about it.
- No Fourth Wall: Most prominently in Book II. When one scene turns awry, Rex notes that they're probably going to rewrite it for the movie version.
Rambo Bloodaxe: It's Rankin, he's in the pub again and he's writing.
- Also used at the beginning:
- Oblivious to Their Own Description: The people of Phnaargos, who spend most of their time watching a reality TV show depicting life on planet Earth, think that the show has gone downhill since the humans turned into couch potatoes who do nothing but watch reality TV. It's so unrealistic, for one thing!
- Police Code for Everything: Even a demon-possessed vehicle in a tow-away zone.
- Private Detective: Lazlo "Some Call Me Laz" Woodbine.
- Private Eye Monologue: In Lazlo's line of work having a decent monologue can mean the difference between sitting on the dock of the bay and a sing-song in Sing-Sing, if you know what I mean, and I'm sure that you do.
- Running Gag: The most prominent running gag involves people commenting on how bad the running gags are.
- Shout-Out: Not only is one of the characters an 'Inter-rositor' operator, but with a flash of Fridge Brilliance, faulty parts cannot be replaced. note
- Sleeps with Both Eyes Open: In Rex's dystopian future, people are paid according to how much television they watch. Rex has trained himself to sleep with his eyes open so that the tracking gadget will think he's still watching.
- Textual Celebrity Resemblance: A group of minor characters with No Fourth Wall insist that, since Rankin never bothered to describe them, they can decide they all look like celebrities.
- Time Travel
- Twist Ending: The second book has several, including O'Mally and Pooley complaining that none of their books had a silly ending like that.
The Cornelius Murphy Series - Three books that give us more details of the Guru's Guru, the Lad Himself, The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived, Mr Hugo Rune, as Cornelius Murphy (the Stuff of Epics) and his friend Tuppe try to find a copy of The Book of Ultimate Truths or Rune himself.
The books are:
- The Book of Ultimate Truths (1993)
- Raiders of the Lost Car Park (1994)
- The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived (1995)
They contain examples of:
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Cornelius Murphy and his best friend Tuppe; Cornelius is described as being six feet tall, while Tuppe is so short that even dwarves look down at him and he apparently made a living impersonating babies in commercials before the trilogy began.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Anna, Corneliuss love interest in Raiders of the Lost Car Park, is simply never mentioned in The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived.
- Comically Missing the Point: Mr Yarrow from The Book Of Ultimate Truths became convinced as a boy that the point of the "Happy Families" card game was that the secret of happiness was to find, as Mr Bun the Baker and Mr Thread the Tailor had, an occupation that... began with the same letter as your surname. Consequently, he became Mr Yarrow the Youth Employment Officer and devoted his life to bringing happiness to others. It hasn't worked, for him or anyone else, but he keeps trying...
- Encyclopedia Exposita: The Book of Ultimate Truths again.
- Evil Twin: In The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived, Hugo Rune has four of these after he used his power of preincarnation to be reborn as quintuplets on his original birth date.
- Fictional Colour: In The Book Of Ultimate Truths, when Brother Rizla is explaining to a sceptical Cornelius and Tuppe about the amazing discoveries made by Hugo Rune, he reveals that there are actually three colours whose existence has been concealed from humanity. Apparently this is with good reason, as when Cornelius' brain tries to make sense of one of them, "a reddy yellowy bluey greenish blackish sort of white — except that it was not", his eyes start watering; Rizla tells him that the second will make him break out in hives, and the third will put him in a coma.
- God Is Flawed: In The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived, it's revealed that, while very much an All-Loving Hero, God has had his share of bad ideas over the years; testicles being on the outside, without any sort of protective shell, is cited as an example.* In fact, the entire reason the Universal Reincarnation Company exists — and why the Big Bad's Evil Plan is even possible — is because God shut Hell down after realising that by including a commandment against coveting, he had unwittingly sentenced untold numbers of babies to eternal damnation for coveting others' toys.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Not explicitly shown, but since The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived reveals that Hugo Rune has mastered the power of preincarnation (allowing himself to be reborn after death in his own body on his original birth date) he must have been through these a few times by the time the narrative begins.
- Identical Nephew: Tuppe and his uncle, Brother Eight, apparently look and sound exactly the same (to the point where Cornelius thinks he is hearing and seeing double when he sees them both together), although Eight is presumably somewhat older.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Raiders of the Lost Car Park. The lands of The Fair Folk are normally inaccessible to humans because they're on the areas of a rectangular map that don't fit when you glue it onto a globe of the same scale. These can be accessed by playing the right combination of notes on an ocarina that has been 'reinvented' through the correct application of a power drill. There's more, but the world is not prepared.
- Last Request: Rune claims he was once sentenced to death by firing squad by President Juan Perón of Argentina for sleeping with his wife. Granted a last request, he asked that the squad aim for his heart, for it had been his undoing. Perón, having evidently forgotten that the reason Rune was in Argentina in the first place was to demonstrate a magical bulletproof vest which deflected the attacker's bullets back at them, permitted this; the entire firing squad promptly fell dead.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Murphy is Rune's son.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Clearly invoked in Raiders of the Lost Car Park, when Cornelius realises that they cant expose the fairies that rule the world because it would spark potential revolution as humanity started turning on itself and accusing each other of being aided by the fairies.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: In The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived, Gwynplaine D'hark QC is very obviously a vampire (and not even making any attempt to hide it), but the word is never used. Instead, he's described as "one of the undead", a "coffin dweller" and a "necrophile" (though he's rather annoyed by the last one, pointing out that he's not a living person who makes love to corpses, he is a dead person who sucks the life blood of the living.)
- Oh, Crap!: Hugo Rune is caught off-guard in Raiders of the Lost Car Park when he learns that the armies of the secret rulers of the world can only be killed by swords rather than conventional modern weapons.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: God is basically presented as this in The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived, as He shut down Hell because He recognised that it was impossible for anyone to obey the Tenth Commandment about coveting what belongs to others as everybody has wanted something that someone else has at some point in their lives.
- Shaped Like Itself: In The Book of Ultimate Truths, a group of monks reveal that one of their number- Brother Rizla, a former associate of Hugo Rune- suffers from a condition that has proven impossible to diagnose beyond that it is what it is, so the monks have taken to calling it Bloke-What-Has-All-Them-Little-Lines-And-Stuff-Coming-Out-Of-His-Bonce-Like-What-You-Get-In-Cartoon-Strips Syndrome, which does exactly what it says (as well as giving the sufferer the ability to see the thought bubbles of others)
The Trilogy That Dare Not Speak Its Name Trilogy
The books are:
- Sprout Mask Replica
- The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag
- Waiting for Godalming
They contain examples of
- Handsome Lech: Arguably God in Waiting for Godalming
- Cyberspace: The main Plotline of The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag
- Noodle Implements: Blown to smithereens in Sprout Mask Replica. Also several characters are described as dying in a freak incident involving "Object X and object Y".
- No Medication for Me: Lazlo Woodbine it allows one of his many Crowning Moments Of Awesome
- Split Personality: In Waiting for Godalming, Lazlo Woodbine apparently uses this when he allows his other personality of Icarus Smiths barking mad brother to take control, allowing him to go from an office to the rooftop for the final showdown with the villain without violating his four-set rule as it technically isn't him making the trip.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Averted; the author has said publicly that he wrote Dance of the Voodoo Handbag with a high drug consumption.
- Winds of Destiny, Change: The lead character of Sprout Mask Replica has the ability to change major things with his minor actions, although he really doesn't use it wisely.
- The Greatest Show Off Earth (1994)
- A Dog Called Demolition (1996)
- Nostradamus Ate my Hamster (1996)
- Apocalypso (1998)
- Snuff Fiction (1999)
- The Fandom of the Operator (2001)
- Web Site Story (2001)
- Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse (2002)
- The Witches of Chiswick (2003)
- The Toyminator (2006)
- The Da-da-de-da-da Code (2007)
- Necrophenia (2008)
- The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions (2010)
- The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age (2011)
Tropes used in all of his works:
- Aluminium Christmas Trees: Count Dante was actually a real person. His real name was John Keehan, and he ran a dojo in Chicago in the '70s. He was famous for being one of the few masters willing to train black and Hispanic students, producing scarily competent fighters, running self-aggrandizing ads in comic books (probably where Rankin got the idea) and being... how to put this politely... completely bugfuck nuts.
- Comic Sutra: "Taking tea with the parson"
- Featureless Protagonist: Used often for Lazlo Woodbine; as his novels are narrated in the first person, he claims that he never describes himself because that way the reader can imagine him as looking like themselves or some relevant hero, and thus make themselves feel like theyre part of the story.
- Master of All: Hugo Rune is commonly presented as this in his appearances, being a man who has basically been everywhere, done everything, and learned all there is to know.
- Mind Screw
- Pun-Based Title: e.g. Raiders of the Lost Car Park and The Witches of Chiswick.
- Retro Universe: While technology reaches into standard futuristic fare, the citizens of Brentford still seem to live a quiet life, down to the fact that the local pub deals in pre-decimalisation money.
- Running Gag: It is a fact, well known to those who know it well, that the now legendary Rankin books contain several Running Gags. This is a tradition or an old charter, or something, and while we sure know our running gags, (because in our line of work, knowing your running gags can be the difference between Kicking a kitten and fleeing the furballs) we couldn't possibly list all of them here, due to transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic anti-matter.
- To the Pain: Many of Rankin's novels feature characters threatening others with their mastery of Dimac, 'the deadliest martial art known to man'; allegedly, the master of Dimac is capable of disfiguring and dismembering an opponent with nothing more than a fingertip, or causing so much damage to the victim that he will subsequently forever walk sideways in the manner of a crab. Subverted in that in most cases the characters making this threat don't actually know Dimac (and one character who learned it was defeated because he only knew the offensive side of Dimac rather than the defensive aspects), but there has been enough evidence to affirm that Dimac does exist in Rankin's work even if it is not explicitly demonstrated.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Many characters quoth things, without warning, and use old phrases.