The “new Ian Rankin” celebrates book deal – by buying a tractor

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A SCOTS farmer dubbed the new Ian Rankin celebrated his six-figure crime book deal – by buying a new tractor.

James Oswald splashed £30,000 on his dream machine after landing a £150,000 deal with Penguin to publish his Inspector McLean crime novels.

James has spent much of his working life quietly raising cattle and sheep on a 350-acre farm in north Fife.

James Oswald splashed £30,000 on his dream machine after landing a £150,000 deal with Penguin
James Oswald splashed £30,000 on his dream machine after landing a £150,000 deal with Penguin

 

But the 45-year-old got the writing bug and penned a dark, disturbing and grisly first novel, Natural Causes, set in Edinburgh.

It was turned down flat by publishers but after self-publishing online, he managed to shift 350,000 copies and hit the top of the sales charts.

On Thursday his dream will be realised when the first physical copies of his novel appear on bookshelves for the first time, published by Penguin.

Despite his success, James is determined not to abandon the farm he inherited from his parents when they died together in a car crash five years ago.

He plans to farm during the day and write at night.

And while some writers would splash their first advance payment on a Porsche, James decided to replace his elderly Renault tractor with its dodgy lifting arm.

In its place he bought a brand-new, lime-green Class tractor, made in Germany, that is his pride and joy.

“I did but a new tractor, that’s pretty much the only thing I’ve spent money on,” he said.

 

The tractor that James bought with his deal money
The tractor that James bought with his deal money

 

Speaking of his joy at receiving the first paperback copies of Natural Causes, he said: “It was amazing, I had been writing for so long because I love doing it.

“But you also want to be published because it’s a vindication of everything you have done.

“When you hold it in your hands and see it in the bookshop there’s nothing better.”

James recalled how he got that news that Penguin – among the publishers who initially turned him down – had changed their mind and won the bidding war for his fiction.

He said: “I was on a hill mending a fence in the middle of a hailstorm.

“Then my agent phoned me and said Penguin have offered you six figures.

“It was a surreal moment.”

James was inspired to enter the crime genre after reading fellow Scots author Stuart Macbride’s work.

But he says the closest he has come to a real crime is a break-in to a shed at his farm, Fliskmillan Steadings, near Newburgh, 15 miles north of Glenrothes.

And the author even admits to be being shy around police.

“I’m pretty terrified of phoning up police and asking how you investigate,” he said.

“I write around the problem as much as I can and I have spoken to a few police officers to get things right.”

Most of the books come from James’ imagination combined Edinburgh’s dark past.

Anthony McLean is a diligent police inspector with a troubled past – his fiancee was murdered by a serial killer.

James revealed that the graphic murder at the start of that novel has been moved back in the Penguin edition to avoid shocking people browsing the book in stores.

 

James  plans to farm during the day and write at night.
James plans to farm during the day and write at night.

 

McLean’s past comes back to haunt him in the follow-up, Book of Souls, which is published in paperback later this year.

Although Penguin themselves have invited comparisons with Rankin, James says his Edinburgh police officer is “very different” to John Rebus.

“He’s young and he doesn’t have a drink problem or an ex-wife,” said James.

He added: “Any new Scottish crime writer is compared to Ian Rankin – but he is the daddy of crime writers.

“When I launch Book of Souls I’ll invite him.”

As well as the Penguin deal, publishers as far as Germany have shown interest in his books.

James says he would be open to a film or TV show for Inspector McLean.

He said: “There were a few film and TV companies asking to see copies of the manuscript.

“I’d like to see James McAvoy play him, but he’s probably too famous.”

Despite his success, James has vowed to stay at Fliskmillan Steadings.

“It’s my family farm and I’m not about to sell it and live in the city.

“A lot of people in my position would go to their boss and say they’re quitting.

“But I’m my own boss and I can’t walk away from my livestock.”

 

A SCOTS farmer dubbed the new Ian Rankin celebrated his six-figure crime book deal - by buying a new tractor.
Natural Causes – finally in paperback

 

 

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