Friday, 20 August 2010

Edinburgh Book Festival 2010 - Ian Rankin


Hullo blog,

 As this gig is an immediate sell out on release of tickets I'm glad that my level two membership of the book festival let's me buy before general release as for me the Ian Rankin event at the festival is a must see every year.  It's not just that he's revered by the Edinburgh Book Festival going public and indeed by Edinburgh itself who claim this working class Fifer as one of their own, or that I've read every one of his world famous Inspector Rebus novels, that I share the characters love of pre-1978 rock music, malt whisky, or even that I love that Rebus inhabits a highly familiar Edinburgh landscape even if he has made it one of the world's murder capitals and therefore, fictionally at least, not particularly safe for us mere mortals. It's not either because I'm particularly captured by crime novels other than in a convenient easy read kind of way, at least most of the time, although I really love the need for a tight and hopefully innovative yet realistic plot in a genre which is so densely populated that it's easy to feel like you've read it all before. I suppose it's that somehow he's managed to take a well drawn character, an incredible, and incredibly small, city and a tightly weaved plot and gel them all together again and again without any of it becoming either too glamorous, too seedy, too predictable and, clearly judging by the success, above all to keep it real.

It's reality that shines out of Ian Rankin. It would be easy to brush by him in the street or in the pub for he is like most of us most of the time - pretty anonymous - and that seems to be how he likes it. He lives in Edinburgh and clearly loves the place. You can bump into him, like I have, in Rebus' favourite den, 'the Ox' or the Oxford Bar, simply because this is one of the places where he has drunk for years and he's comfortable enough in his skin to be recognised or not and not be put off by either. Rankin and Rebus both drink there for the same reason. The beer's good and they are comfortable there, they always have been. It's real in every very ordinary sense of the word

Last night there was no new book for a reading so there was an extended conversation with the chair for the event, fellow Scots crime novelist, Lin Anderson, followed by the usual question and answer session. Much of the conversation naturally turned around Rebus, even though Rankin retired him a few years ago {the novels worked in real time and Rebus like all detectives had to retire at 60} and has published two books - still set in Edinburgh - since. People want to know how Rebus is coping with retirement {drinking more and working part-time on the cold case team at police headquarters, Fettes}. Are there any plans for a book based on his female sidekick Siobhan? {it's something I've considered, so perhaps at some time} or his arch nemesis Cafferty? {ditto} And what about the main character of his last book 'The Complaints', Malcolm Fox, teetotal policeman of  the internal complaints dept. Will this become a series {Very likely. Both Fox and Breck, the other, more dubious police character feel like they have more mileage in them. Fox will definitely be featuring again and I think his character will develop more now I have got to know him a bit better. He may have a few more faults in his character to come out.}. Would Fox and Rebus ever come together in a novel? {It would be interesting to have them working in the same building on cases that converge. It's fascinating how Rebus might react, worrying if any of the skeletons in his cupboard might surface and how Fox would react under those circumstances too}.

Ian spoke about 'Open Doors', the tale of an Edinburgh art heist. This first novel after Rebus was his most successful ever. {If I'd known that was going to happen I might have pensioned Rebus off earlier! }.  He pointed out that it was only after it had been published and recognised as a success that he realised this was the first book he had written where no-one had been murdered. It's been picked up to be worked on for TV, as has 'The Complaints'. Interestingly Rankin has retained some rights in these transactions and hinted that he would have some, if limited, say in the adaptions for screen play and even in the casting of characters, something that never happened with the translation of the Rebus novels to TV. He admitted that although he has copies of the TV Rebus at home, he has never watched any of them, even now after the apparent demise of the character. The reason for this, he said, was that he didn't want another persons interpretation of Rebus to get into his head. Questioned about who was best cast as Rebus he did say that one of his friends commented on the difference between John Hannah and Ken Stott playing the part was that at least Stott looked like he would punch you in the face.

The fact that Rebus the series still lies unwatched in the Rankin household would seem to say that Ian really is unsure that Rebus has finally left the stage. I wonder if he is haunted by his spectre across the bar-room in 'The Ox' too..........

Interview over Ian picks up his i-pad; a small sheet of paper covered in tiny script detailing what he is doing every day this week. He smiles at the audience, the grin of a cheeky schoolboy.

" The screen size is great, it's lightweight and the battery lasts for ever!!! "

{I've paraphrased Ian's responses to questions}

Ian's wki bio is here, his website here and an interview with him here

Listening to Mogwai 'Friend of the Night'

2 comments:

Rebecca S. said...

Nicely done, Al. I know that Alexander McCall Smith (who lives part time in Vancouver) absolutely reveres Ian Rankin, and even features him in, I believe, 44 Scotland Street.

Alistair said...

Thanks Rebecca, I've enjoyed doing these mini reviews on what I've seen at the book festival so far.

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