There will be one
detective it will be hard to escape in 2007.
From a brand new
edition of his first recorded case in March to the publication of his final case
in October, there will be television shows, exhibitions, new reading guides to
the backlist and even, appropriately, special edition beer and whisky.
The detective is of
course Inspector John Rebus of Lothian and Borders CID.
Rebus has reached
retiral age and, despite the attempts of Scottish Parliament MP Helen Eadie to
extend the serving age of police officers to guarantee more books, it is time to
hang up his handcuffs.
2007 marks the 20th
anniversary of the first Rebus novel, "Knots and Crosses", and author Ian Rankin
has made long-standing promise to himself to finish the series in its 20th year.
"I think Iím just going
to treat it as another book. I donít think Iím going to tie up loose ends like
his relationship with Big Ger Cafferty (the Edinburgh gangster who is Rebusís
long-standing nemesis)," Ian revealed.
As for Rebus, Ian
suspects at the end of the book he will just walk away without a "Reichenbach
Falls moment" ó as when fellow Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his
detective, if only temporarily as it turned out.
Before they discover
whether Rebus retires from the scene gracefully and otherwise, and whether the
incorrigible Fifer manages to cope with the ban on smoking now in force in
Scottish pubs - even his beloved Oxford Bar, there is one penultimate Rebus book
to enjoy and it is a good one.
Scottish novelist and
critic Alan Massie, Ian's former tutor at Edinburgh University, has even gone as
far as to suggest it is his best book yet and certainly events in Scotland's
capital last year presented Rankin with an irresistible backdrop to the 16th
Rebus novel, "The Naming of the Dead."
In the new novel Rebus,
the perennial outsider, is just about the only senior police officer in
Edinburgh not involved with the G8 summit at Gleneagles which brought
anti-poverty and anti-war protesters to Edinburgh in their hundreds of
thousands, so he is the only one free to investigate the suspicious death of a
politician which coincides with clues a serial killer may be on the loose.
"I knew I was going to
have to write about G8 and at the back of my mind there was this thought that
maybe I would get Rebus to meet George Bush," Ian said.
Not only does Rebus
meet George W., in Ian's novel it is Rebus who is the unnamed policeman who in
famously causes the US president to crash his mountain bike while cycling around
Gleneagles and Ian cheerfully confirms an earlier comment that he was writing a
whole novel just to include that one incident.
"I really worked hard
on that scene," he added. "I just read it again and I just thought it was
hilarious ó thatíll probably be one of the scenes Iíll choose when I do public
There is a more serious
side to the bookís politics than a bit of slapstick with the leader of the
Western World and Ian suggests his books have taken on an increasingly political
element of late, perhaps because Jack McConnellís official residence, Bute
House, is just along the road from the Oxford Bar, the real-life pub which is
Rebusís favourite watering hole.
"Rebus is very cynical
about it, very cynical about G8 and about the ant-poverty marchers ó though he
watches Pink Floyd at the Live8 concert in London, obviously. Siobhan, his
younger colleague, is more idealistic and she goes on the Make Poverty History
march," Ian revealed.
"It was like being in a
state of siege being in Edinburgh at that time. You couldnít post a letter
because all the letter boxes had been sealed up to prevent terrorists putting
bombs in them, there were barricades everywhere and then Geldof said he wanted a
million people here. Every day there was something else. I was lucky I was in
town all week to see it all."
Research was easy. Ian
and his family went to the Meadows, the focal point for the anti-poverty march
around the city attended by anyone from respectable groups of church-goers to
masked anarchists, and so too does Rebus.
"Every day there was
something else," Ian added.
"You had Gordon Brown
speaking at a gathering at the Church of Scotland Assembly Halls, Bono staying
at the Balmoral Hotel...always something happening. I was lucky because I was in
town all week to see it.
"There's a lot of real
life people in the book just because so many of them were around at the time.
Iíve done my timeline, things that happen on certain days, so I could match them
to events in the book. Then on the seventh you had the London bombings, so I had
to put them in as well."
Another thing Ian felt
he had to put into the book was the Clootie Well, a spooky paganism survival
where people leave strips of cloth or clothing behind in the hope of healing or
Ian came across the
real well at Munlochy last year while on holiday in the Black Isle near
"It was the creepiest
thing," he said. "Iíd never heard of the Clootie Well before. You go into the
woods and there is this real atmosphere with all these strips of cloth tied
round trees and water bubbling out of the ground. It has a real sense of
something strange. It was too good to waste. It was the same when I went Mary
Kingís Close in Edinburgh, I just had to put it in a book."
Though the plot of the
book necessitated a move from Ross-shire to the outskirts of the village of
Auchterarder near Gleneagles, Ian does acknowledge the real life inspiration of
his fictional Clootie Well at the end of the book, where he recommends it as
worth a visit "if you like your tourist attractions on the skin-crawling side."
Fans may be relieved to
hear that he has no plans to get rid of Rebusís sidekick Detective Sergeant
Siobhan Clarke, though less pleased to learn than his book a year schedule may
be cut down to a book every two years with his first post-Rebus offering
appearing in 2009 and the next in 2011.
Prior to "The Naming of
the Dead", Ian took what was supposedly a year off, in that he had no Rebus
novel to write. In practice it did not quite work out that way for the in demand
"The easiest time I
have us when I'm writing a book. Then I can just tell people to go away," he
Alongside any future
novels, Ian's writing career, which began as teenager in Fife writing song
lyrics for an imaginary band and creating his own comic, is swinging full
Famous for the musical
reference in his books, Ian reveals that for his appearance on "Desert Island
Discs" the BBC had to send someone up from London to help him cut down his
shortlist from 38 to the eight records actually played on the show. He is now
writing lyrics for Edinburgh band St Judeís Infirmary and is following fellow
Scottish crime writer Denise Mina in scripting DC Comics/Vertigoís "Hellblazer"
adult horror series about a London based magician and occult investigator and
the basis of the film "Constantine" which starred Keanu Reeves with Tilda
Ian has made no secret
of his love of comics. Early thriller "The Watchman" was titled in part homage
to Alan Moore's classic graphic novel "Watchmen" and Ian has followed
Constantine's career since the Sting lookalike's first appearance back in the
issues of Moore's "Swamp Thing."
"Denise Mina must have
told them I like comics. I pushed an idea to them and they came back: 'Oh my
God! This is really exciting!' but it was just a 10 sentence synopsis. I'll
flesh it out to five or six issues and once we've done that we'll decide on a
deal. But it won't be until after the next Rebus novel," Ian revealed.
As for doing a swap
with his near neighbour J. K. Rowling, perhaps that is something that should be
regarded with more caution.
"I made the mistake of
joking to a journalist that I might write children's books," Ian revealed.
With J. K. Rowling
commenting that she would like to try a crime novel, it seemed a straight
exchange of genres could be arranged, though don't wait too anxiously for
Rankin's appearance in the children's section.
More immediately are a
number of screen projects, including a possible television drama and a
documentary for the BBC on Robert Louis Stevenson and the writing of "Jekyll and
Hyde", while BBC4 will screen an adaptation of his short story "The Acid Test",
with Richard Wilson as Arthur Conan Doyle and Alastair Mackenzie from "Monarch
of the Glen" as thriller writer Jack Harvey ó a pen-name adopted by Ian for
three thrillers in the early 1990s.
"I canít tell you how
good I felt when I saw theyíd cast a young handsome actor as Jack Harvey," Ian
And of course Rebus
continues in his on screen incarnation on ITV with Ken Stottís portrayal more
warmly received than John Hannahís interpretation of a few years ago. Ian has
yet to watch an episode all the way through, but gives the television series his
seal of approval.
"Ken Stottís really
good in it and there are some great lines," he commented. "I wish Iíd written
ē "Naming the Dead" by
is published by Orion £17.99