Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rankin 101

You may have noticed a great deal of writing in the press lately about the creator of John Rebus, what with his comments about violence in crime fiction, his mischievous sense of humor, and of course his latest--and last--Rebus book.

I received e-mail note this morning from Helen Richardson, the publicity director at Orion Publishing UK, giving Rebus readers a little snippet about Exit Music. In keeping with the all Ian Rankin, all the time feel we’ve had going here over the last few days, I thought I’d share it with you:
Ian Rankin announced at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week that the title of his new Rebus novel is Exit Music.

The book had been previously known under the working title of
Rebus XX.

Exit Music

The year 2007 marks Detective Inspector Rebus’s last year in the Scottish police. Forced to retire by both the law and his--relieved--superiors, Rebus knows that his time in the blue ranks must now come to an end.

It’s late-autumn in Edinburgh and late-autumn in the career of DI John Rebus. As he tries to tie up some loose ends before retirement, a murder case intrudes. A dissident Russian poet has been found dead in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. By apparent coincidence a high-level delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, keen to bring business to Scotland. The politicians and bankers who run Edinburgh are determined that the case should be closed quickly and clinically, but the further they dig, the more Rebus and his colleague DS Siobhan Clarke become convinced that they are dealing with something more than a random attack--especially after a second killing. Meantime, a brutal and premeditated assault on local gangster “Big Ger” Cafferty sees Rebus in the frame. Has the Inspector taken a step too far in tying up those loose ends? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, inglorious career, will Rebus even make it that far?
Exit Music will be published in hardcover by Orion Books on September 6 at £18.99

Those readers who have yet to experience the Rebus novels might enjoy this Rankin 101 from the Times of London, which adds some perspective to the literary “spat” as well as being a decent primer on Rankin’s works:
Yet superficially John Rebus and Rankin could not be more different. The surly detective inspector sees the dregs of society through a whisky glass, returning to a house he can ill afford. SAS trained and obsessed with rock music, he has suffered a nervous breakdown, failed as a husband and father and turned to drink, fags and Christianity. Rankin, a tall man with green-brown eyes and a farmer’s haircut, lives in a seven-bedroom Victorian house in Merchiston, Edinburgh’s most exclusive area, with his wife Miranda and their two young sons. A Jacuzzi and a trampoline are in the garden with a life-sized pink cow.

His neighbours include Alexander McCall Smith, who penned the successful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, and J.K. Rowling, the squillionaire author of the Harry Potter series. Rankin’s wife spotted JKR the other day “scribbling away in a cafe”, he said last week, speculating whether she was “writing her Edinburgh detective novel”.

Rankin is often at pains to point out that he could afford to move to the area only four years ago. Besides swineherding, he has worked as a taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician. “My wife and I struggled by on £5,000 a year at one point when I was trying to make it. For a long time I was earning £4,000 or £5,000 a book. I went up to £30,000 in 1997 after winning the Golden Dagger award.” Phenomenal sales and the Rebus television series starring John Hannah and latterly Ken Stott, now keep the wolf from the door.
The genesis of Rankin’s success as a writer is balanced by his own struggles through life, as The Times notes:
Rankin was born in 1960 in Cardenden (sometimes known locally as Cardeadend), a former mining town 30 miles north of Edinburgh which he recalled as a place “full of Slade fans and soccer hooligans”. His parents, Isobel, a dinner lady, and James, who worked in a grocer’s shop and then at the Rosyth naval dockyard, had married after the deaths of their previous spouses and had a daughter each.

Eschewing his rowdy chums, Rankin haunted the library. At Beath high school in Cowdenbeath he edited a magazine that was closed after one issue because the headmaster suspected something too exotic in the title, Mainline. Although his plan was to study accountancy, in the hope of buying a car like an accountant uncle, he opted to read English at Edinburgh University.

He has evoked “a rollicking good time” at university, where he first started writing books and undertook a PhD on Muriel Spark. But his wife, whom he met there, revealed that he was “often very depressed, if not suicidal”. His writing tutor Allan Massie, discerning that “there was certainly something there”, commended Rankin to his London publisher, who accepted the youngster’s first novel after five other publishers had turned it down.
Knots and Crosses, introducing Rebus, was published in 1987.

Rankin believed that he had written a modern-day gothic novel in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Frustratingly, everyone else thought it was a crime novel. He wrote another two novels before returning to Rebus.
The Times piece on Rankin can be found here.

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