AUTHOR Ian Rankin is taking a break from writing his Inspector Rebus novels to pen his first stage play.

The best-selling writer is working on Dark Road, which will debut at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in the autumn.

The play will be the flagship production of the theatre's 2013/14 season, launched yesterday by Rankin and other writers who will be featured.

Dark Road will focus on central character Isobel McArthur, the first female Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, and the case of a serial killer she put behind bars some 25 years earlier.

McArthur will be played by leading Scottish actress Maureen Beattie, who is currently touring the UK in Michael Frayn's play Noises Off.

While Rankin penned several radio plays early in his career and has contributed a libretto to Scottish Opera's Five:15 project of chamber operas, Dark Road marks his first foray into stage drama.

It has been co-written by Rankin with Royal Lyceum artistic director and Herald Angel award winner Mark Thomson.

Rankin, 53, said: "It has been a collaborative process throughout, which was a challenge for me.

"Normally whatever I say goes, but Mark is always fun and sparks ideas.

"It's as much Mark Thomson's play as mine. I came up with the story, Mark did dialogue, then we brainstormed changes and characterisation."

With the play due to hit the stage in July, Rankin revealed that – like any good thriller – there are still some elements of Dark Road's plot to be finalised.

He added: "It isn't quite finished yet, there are a couple of twists to iron out."

Rankin said he has been going to Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre since he was a schoolboy, and has particularly vivid memories of seeing his first full frontal nudes in a production of the controversial play Equus at the theatre when he was a teenager.

He said: "The first play I saw here was during my high school time. It must have been Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket.

"One of the most memorable experiences was seeing Equus, a play featuring full frontal nudity.

"When you are 18 or 19, it's a defining moment, seeing a naked young man and a young woman who are about to make love. That was certainly good to see."

Mr Thomson said he was a fan of Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels.

He said: "He is one of Scotland's most successful storytellers. But despite his presence in the world of fiction and TV through Rebus in particular, he's never had his stories told in a theatre.

"In fiction, TV and film the crime genre is so powerful and successful. We thought we'd like to try and capture the dark pleasure of that onstage."

The crime theme will continue at the Lyceum, with Dark Road followed by a new stage version of Dostoyevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment.

This will be written by Glasgow-born playwright Chris Hannan, and co-produced with the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and Liverpool Playhouse.

Other highlights include Tim Barrow's new work, Union, which will look at events surrounding the 1707 Act of Union.

Meanwhile, Olivier award-winning actor David Haig's play, Pressure, centres around Sir James Martin Stagg, the Scottish meteorologist who was charged by President Eisenhower to set the date for the D-Day landings during the Second World War. The new season will also feature productions of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill and Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives.

Dark Road runs at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, from September 25 to October 19.