Newspaper archive helps provide inspiration for reporter’s first novel

A SCOTSMAN journalist has dipped into the newspaper’s reports from two centuries ago for inspiration for his first novel.

Peter Ranscombe – a business correspondent for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and – drew on The Scotsman’s coverage of the hanging of mass murderer, William Burke, in 1829, as the starting point for ‘Hare’, which will be published next year by Knox Robinson Publishing.

The novel asks what happened to Burke’s partner-in-crime, William Hare, after he turned king’s evidence on his accomplice, letting Burke hang for their crimes while he was set free.

Ranscombe, who is based in the newspaper’s head office in Edinburgh, said: “I’m so excited about the novel being published, it’s literally a childhood dream come true.

“I wrote ‘Hare’ over the course of about 18 months during snatched moments at evenings and weekends, but then it’s taken a further two years or so to find the right publisher.”

Knox Robinson, which has offices in London and New York, specialises in historical fiction.

Peter – who is originally from Nairn, near Inverness, in the Highlands – joined The Scotsman in 2005 as an editorial assistant, writing for and helping to edit the professional pages in the newspaper, which ranged from science and technology through to law and legal affairs.

He was appointed as a business reporter five years ago and promoted to his current post three years ago.

He added: “The University of Edinburgh’s anatomical museum kindly let me have my photograph taken with William Burke’s skeleton for the book jacket. The photo was taken by Alex Hewitt, who used to be The Scotsman’s deputy picture editor but who recently left to run a company called Writer Pictures.

“It’s amazing the number of people even in Edinburgh who think Burke and Hare were grave robbers. They weren’t – they were murderers who killed their victims and then sold the bodies to Dr Robert Knox, one of Edinburgh University’s anatomy teachers.”