In celebration of Rebusfest (yes, it’s a thing, check it out…after you’ve read this obviously) we have managed to take some time out with Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin. He’s currently touring the world to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his primary protagonist John Rebus – who now features in 21 bestselling novels.
His spring travels culminate in the aforementioned Rebusfest in the majestic city of Edinburgh, home of our favourite anti-hero cop – Detective John Rebus. The festival celebrates literature, music, art and film and will be around for you to enjoy from 30 June to 2 July 2017.
21 Rebus novels over 30 years – that’s fairly prolific! Did you write Knots and Crosses with such longevity in mind?
When I wrote Knots and Crosses, I intended it as a one-off. Rebus died at the end of the first draft! By the second draft I’d decided he should live – thank goodness! It was a few years before my editor said, “I liked that character, you should bring him back”. So that’s what I did.
Do you have a favourite Rebus novel?
My personal favourite is probably Black and Blue, first published in 1997. By then I had served my apprenticeship and grown in confidence. It was a bigger, more complex novel, and Rebus emerged as a very three-dimensional character.
How much of you is there in John Rebus? Or is he a pastiche of characters you’ve met over the years? Is he entirely fictional?
There’s very little of me in Rebus. He’s tougher, more abrasive, more of a loner. And I’ve never smoked, unlike him. We have similar backgrounds and share the same taste in music and pubs. He’s not based on anyone. He just popped into my head one night and decided to stay!
Have you ever been on a Rebus walking tour of Edinburgh? If so, were you undercover?
I’ve been on the Rebus walking tour a couple of times, but never undercover. It was for charity versions of the tour, with me as surprise guest. When the creator of the walking tour originally got in touch to ask for permission I was sceptical that anyone would want to walk in Rebus’s footsteps, but the tour has gone from strength to strength.
You’ll be travelling extensively this year, all over the world. What’s in your hand luggage?
One or two books to read. Plus my phone and a pair of earphones, so I can listen to music. Maybe a music magazine to read. I travel light.
You’re a regular at Slaters Edinburgh store. When did you first shop there, and what kept you coming back?
I forget who tipped me off to Slaters. It helps that the Edinburgh branch is literally around the corner from the Oxford Bar, where Rebus and I both drink. Slaters has a great range of clothes and shoes, and the staff always helpful and friendly. I like a one-stop shop where I can get everything sorted at the same time. Slaters is perfect for that.
Would Rebus be a Slaters regular?
Rebus would definitely be a Slaters customer. Like me, he wants shopping to be quick and hassle-free. He appreciates a bargain, too. And he could nip to the Oxford Bar afterwards…
You’re a big music fan, and a vinyl collector. What is your most prized record? Who are your favourite artists, past and present?
Music has always been a big part of my life. As a teenager I dreamed of being a rock star. I was in a punk band for a few months but we never got anywhere. I buy a lot of music, listen to music while I’m writing, and bring a lot of musical references into my books. Because of this, musicians have become fans, and Rebus has helped me meet Van Morrison, Jimmy Page, Rick Wakeman, the Manic Street Preachers, the Rolling Stones, and many more.
My most prized album at home? I’ve a copy of Exile on Main Street signed by Keith Richards. And Unknown Pleasures signed by the existing members of Joy Division – probably a tie between those!