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Grisly murders inspire reporter’s first novel

Newspaper archives dating back almost 200 years have been plundered to find inspiration for a regional business correspondent’s “first love” – fiction writing.

Peter Ranscombe, who reports on business news for The Scotsman, Scotsman on Sunday and, spent 18 months writing Hare – his first novel, based around the true story of Scottish serial killers William Burke and William Hare.

Two years after finishing the manuscript, he has struck a deal with Knox Robinson Publishing, who bought the rights to the hardback, paperback and e-book editions of the book. It is scheduled for release next year.

Peter said he was delighted to have found a publisher for the tale, which he wrote during “snatched moments” in evenings and weekends outside work.

“Fiction was always my first love. I won a number of awards as a young writer and had my poetry and short stories published in several magazines and anthologies. I carried on writing while I was at university and I’m so excited to have found a publisher,” he said.

Burke and Hare are two of the most notorious murderers in Scotland’s history, killing their victims and selling their bodies to one of Edinburgh’s anatomy teachers.

When they were caught, Hare was offered immunity from prosecution if he testified against his friend, and Burke was hanged for his crimes.

Scotsman business correspondent Peter Ranscombe with the skeleton of serial killer William Burke, which is kept at the University ofEdinburgh. (Credit: Alex Hewitt/Writer Pictures)

“I’ve always loved history and the tale of Burke and Hare seemed like a great jumping-off point for a story,” Peter added.

“My story asks what happened to Hare after he was set free and places him in Boston during the early years of the American Civil War, when a series of murders places him under suspicion again.

“I used The Scotsman’s archive – which stretches back to 1817 – as part of the research for the book. I used the cuttings to give me a flavour of the atmosphere in Edinburgh when Burke was hanged in 1829.”

Having initially studied physics at the University of St Andrews, Peter went on to train as a journalist at the Scottish Centre for Journalism Studies. He began doing shift work for The Scotsman while still training and, when his course finished in 2005, was offered a full-time job as an editorial assistant.

He was given the role of business reporter in 2008 and promoted to correspondent in 2010.