One of Scotland’s most famous authors and the creator of the world-famous Rebus series discusses his source of inspiration and life as a founding member of Edinburgh’s literati...
As one of Scotland’s most successful authors, Ian Rankin has had a prolific career. Most famous for his Inspector Rebus series, the 48-year-old writer has seen his most popular work be turned into a very successful TV series, latterly starring Ken Stott in the lead role.
Originally from Fife, the author now lives in Edinburgh – the source of inspiration for his work. But who couldn’t help but feel inspired when you live near such successful writers as J.K. Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the 44 Scotland Street and The Ladies’ No.1 Detective Agency series.
Rankin himself famously never watches the TV adaptation of his most renowned work but of course has his own views on whether Ken Stott – or anyone else for that matter – is the right man for the job of playing the detective. Here he discusses those views and reviews as well telling us what it is live living alongside other literary heavy weights.
You are part of an exciting Scottish literary revival. Are you still enjoying riding that wave?
I started writing back in the late 70s when I was a student at Edinburgh University. It’s very hard to think of other writers at the time – there were wannabe writers but no professional writers who were making a good living. Now you can’t walk a hundred yards without meeting someone who’s writing a successful series – it’s brilliant. I love it that I can walk down the street and bump into Alexander McCall Smith or J.K. Rowling or Kate Atkinson. I think it’s just an accident of timing that we should all be in Edinburgh at the same time.
Do you all still live in the same area?
I live two doors away from McCall Smith and around the corner from J.K. Rowling and Kate Atkinson. But we hardly see each other because someone is always away either on tour or away doing something. But there has been the odd occasion when the three of us – McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling and me – have been in the same café at the same time. You’d probably be disappointed by the conversation: it’s about the road works and the weather – the same as everybody else in Edinburgh.
Do you think it is something about Edinburgh itself that it is home to so many writers?
It’s always been a city that’s attracted writers because it’s full of stories. As Edinburgh evolves and changes new stories keep arriving so when the parliament arrived you could set stories around the parliament, the devolution debate or about the banking crisis – the last Rebus novel had a bank that was slightly in trouble although I didn’t know about the crisis at the time. Even the non-Rebus books are stories of the city. The last book I wrote, Doors Open, was based around The Scottish National Gallery. There’s always something to write about. Well I hope there is because I have to deliver a new book very soon!
The TV adaptation of Rebus is huge. Will Ken Stott continue in the lead role?
I would be the last person to find out if he was or not. I would be delighted, and especially delighted for the fans all around the world, because the series is now being shown everywhere. The fans of the book are, in the main, very pleased with Ken Stott. Some of them still think he’s a wee bit young and some think he’s a wee bit good looking.
Do you enjoy the TV adaptations?
I don’t watch them – it’s no secret. The reason I don’t watch them is that I don’t want actors’ voices interfering with the characters in my head. Once I know I will never write about Rebus again I will be quite happy to watch them all. I have them all on DVD. I buy them from HMV. They’re quite reasonably priced…
Ken Stott continuing as Rebus is a good commercial spin-off is it not?
I suppose so and one day my publishers will put out an edition of the book with him on the front so people might buy the book that wouldn’t have otherwise. If you think about it, a TV version of Rebus gets between five and seven million viewers and my books would sell half a millions copies each in the UK. So that’s a lot of people who watch the series but might not have read a novel so I would love for the people who watch it on TV to then go and buy the books to find out just what they were missing.
Do you think there is life for Rebus with another actor such as Brian Cox. Do you think he could pick up the mantel?
I have met Brian Cox a number of times and I think he is a fantastic actor but I’ve never met anyone who is just like Rebus. I’ve had plenty of cops tell me that they know someone just like him but I’ve never met anyone who I think, ‘Yeah, this is definably who you are looking for.’ It’s an interesting point because people who read the books have got their own interpretations of what he’s like. A lot of people come to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh and tell me it’s nothing like they imagined it from the books, which means I’ve done something wrong because I’ve described it time after time. They always think it would be much bigger. People always have their own idea of Rebus: what colour his hair is, how tall he is because I never describe him in the book.
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