Ian Rankin says his books cannot keep pace with changing face of Edinburgh

Ian Rankin will celebrate 30 years of his Inspector Rebus novels in 2017.
Ian Rankin will celebrate 30 years of his Inspector Rebus novels in 2017.
6
Have your say

Ian Rankin has admitted he cannot keep up with the changing face of Edinburgh - which is making his books out of date before they are even published.

The crime writer said he was running out of locations to set crimes in across the Scottish capital because it was becoming so gentrified.

Rankin, speaking at the launch of his new Inspector Rebus novel at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, said his books were becoming “historical novels” because locations were changing so quickly after each book was completed.

The books are set in “real-world” Edinburgh, with the main character being gradually aged by the author since the first instalment, Knots and Crosses, in 1987. The latest instalment, Rather Be The Devil, sees Rebus face up to his old nemesis, gangster Maurice “Big Ger” Cafferty.

Rankin said: “In the new book Rebus and Cafferty go for a coffee at the Starbucks on Forrest Road. It’s become a Mexican restaurant since I wrote the book. I couldn’t believe it. It was finished in June and it was definitely there then. I turned around the corner in September or October and thought: ‘where has Starbucks gone?’

“I was at The Stand Comedy Club last night and went for a few drinks to Mathers bar in Broughton Street and it wasn’t there any more. Since I was there in August it’s become some kind of wine bar-type place. It’s a lot more chi-chi than it used to be. It’s problematic. These books are history now before they’re even published. I don’t like it when Edinburgh changes.”

Rankin said writing crime novels about the city was getting harder and harder because so many areas had been “cleaned up.”

He added: “There is nowhere left in Edinburgh that is kind of disreputable. We’re running out of places to write about. The other problem is the Scottish murder rate keeps going down. There’s not enough of them to go round.”

Rankin admitted the Rebus books were increasingly tackling the ageing process, with the detective facing up to being a grandfather for the first time.

He said: “It was only after the previous book was done, maybe when people were talking to me about it, that I realised that it was a book about me letting go of my sons.

“It was written not long after both of them had left home. When you have adult children leave home a different chapter of your life is about to start. You’re thinking: ‘Did I do the right things? Did I do as well as I could have done? Are they as well prepared for life as I could have made them. All that stuff was getting channelled into that book.

“I’m a pessimist at heart. I always think each book could be the last. My books are getting shorter. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’m going to drop dead before I finish it.

“Rebus was estranged from his daughter for quite some time. She’s had a baby and in the new book he meets his grand-daughter for the first time. He’s not too sure how to react. I’m not a grand-dad yet, but maybe I’m thinking how I would react if I was.”

Rankin revealed he would be happy for another writer to revive his Inspector Rebus character after the writer passes away.

He said: “Somebody was asking me just the other day if I could imagine anybody else writing Rebus after I was gone.

“I hadn’t really thought about it, but I can’t see any reason not to. Some characters can be reborn time and again. You see it with Sherlock Holmes and a lot and there’s a new Poirot book out. There’s no reason why, if I drop dead tonight, somebody can’t do another Rebus book.

“I’m a pessimist at heart. I always think each book could be the last. My books are getting shorter. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’m going to drop dead before I finish it. The same goes for reading. I’ve started to read much shorter books.

“I’m not retired yet, but my wife is talking about down-sizing. She’s starting to think ‘what do we do when Ian stops writing these books?’

“In this new book Cafferty downsizes and it is maybe a prelude to me doing it. I’m not looking forward to getting rid of my records and books. It might be easier just to get a divorce.”