Our British representative

Dr. Roger Swearingen, left, and Nick Rankin discuss R.L.S. in the Hotel Saranac, July 2006. (Photo provided)

Nicholas Rankin was born in 1949 and currently lives in Ramsgate, England, with his wife who is also an author. They have a daughter who lives in France.

Books by Nicholas Rankin (all published by Faber and Faber):

1. “Dead Man’s Chest: Travels After Robert Louis Stevenson” (1987) — Also translated into Spanish and one part into French.

2. “Telegram from Guernica: the Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent” (2003) — Translated into Japanese and Spanish.

3. “Churchill’s Wizards: the British Genius for Deception, 1914-1945” (2008) — Translated into Arabic. (U.S. title, published by Oxford University Press in 2009: “A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars.”)

4. “Ian Fleming’s Commandos: the Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII” (2011) — Translated into Polish. (Also published in U.S. by OUP in 2012.)

5. “Defending the Rock: How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler” (2017) — Paperback sub-title in 2018: “Gibraltar and the Second World War.”

6. “Trapped in History: Kenya, Mau Mau and Me” (forthcoming, November 2023) — Although he was born in England, Rankin spent his childhood–from age 4 to 13–in colonial Kenya, some of it during the “Emergency” period of the Mau Mau uprising against European rule.

Rankin is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Life Member of the National Union of Journalists and sits on the Management Committee of Britain’s Society of Authors.

Radio work

Nick Rankin — his broadcasting name — worked for the BBC World Service for 20 years from 1986 to 2006. Starting as a scriptwriter in Central Talks and Features, he rose to be chief producer, Features and Arts, making scores of documentaries on all kinds of subjects–cultural, historical, literary, scientific, etc–for international audiences in English radio feature programs that he conceived, researched, compiled, interviewed, edited, wrote, and presented himself. His eight-part radio series “A Green History of the Planet” won two UN awards in the mid-1990s. His six-part series on drugs in nature and culture, Plants of Power, was one of the first to go on-line with illustrations. He continues to present radio programmes as a freelance since leaving the staff of the BBC. Most recently, in December 2022, he fronted an hour-long programme “The World Service is 90!” — a celebration of 90 years of British overseas radio broadcasting.

Nick has been back twice to Saranac Lake since his initial visit in 1984, as depicted in the eighth chapter of “Dead Man’s Chest.” The first time was a flying visit in 1994 to interview Mike Delahant for the second (American) program in the three-part radio version of “Dead Man’s Chest” (which focused first on Europe and finally, Hawaii and Samoa in the Pacific). This was broadcast on BBC World Service for the centenary of Robert Louis Stevenson’s death in December 1894. The second visit was in 2006 for a three-day literary conference on Robert Louis Stevenson held in Saranac Lake in the summer of 2006. Amid the academic papers, Nick did an opening presentation with a “Dead Man’s Chest” of objects and took part in an interview/dialogue with noted Stevenson scholar on Stevenson’s great novel which was begun at Saranac Lake and completed in Hawaii, namely, “The Master of Ballantrae–A Winter’s Tale.”

From “Dead Man’s Chest: Travels After Robert Louis Stevenson”:

“The Master of Ballantrae is a complex and subtle story of two Scottish brothers, dour Henry and dashing James, told by two similarly paired narrators, the repressed Ephraim MacKellar and the raffish Chevalier Burke. The brothers’ fortunes see-saw like the deck of the rolling Nonesuch and their characters reverse; the ‘good’ dull brother becomes devilish, and the ‘bad’ dashing one ultimately shows decency. Eventually, they kill each other, and end up lying together in the same grave. It is a great Scottish novel in the tradition of ambiguities begun by James Hogg’s Confession of a Justified Sinner. It is also a fascinating development of the psychological ‘doubleness’ that RLS had made his own in Jekyll and Hyde.”


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