Ian Rankin should get Edinburgh's Freedom of the City award for his John Rebus books – Susan Dalgety

John Rebus has been part of my life since 1987 when Ian Rankin’s first book featuring his surly detective hit the bookstands.

Sunday, 16th January 2022, 4:45 pm
Ian Rankin has done much to spread the word about Edinburgh in his John Rebus books (Picture: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)
Ian Rankin has done much to spread the word about Edinburgh in his John Rebus books (Picture: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

Since Knots and Crosses, Rankin has written 23 books featuring Rebus, now a grumpy old man purportedly in retirement from the police. But a good detective never truly hangs up his handcuffs, and Rebus continues to outshine his more conventional ex-colleagues when it comes to solving grisly crimes.

So, I was delighted to learn he has signed a deal to write two more John Rebus books, with the first out in October. I shall download it the day it is published, and probably finish it that night.

The appeal of the Rebus novels is far more than that of the classic crime novel, though Rankin plots mysteries brilliantly. And it is not just Rebus I love, even if he is one of the best-developed characters in fiction. I refuse to watch any of the TV adaptions, fearful that my image of Rebus – who in my mind resembles my father – is destroyed.

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Rankin’s great feat is how he has made Edinburgh as much a leading character in his novels as Rebus or Siobhan Clark or Malcolm Fox.

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Every book evokes the city, from its tenements to its housing estates, its grand drawing rooms, where the great and the good gather, to its sleazy nightclubs run by gangsters.

Millions now know – and love – our city through Ian Rankin’s books. He may have been born in Fife, but he is one of Edinburgh’s greatest sons.

So when is he going to get the freedom of our city? Rankin was the first recipient of the council’s Edinburgh Award, which honours people who have “gained national and international recognition for Edinburgh”, but that was back in 2007.

The Freedom of the City is, according to the City Council website, for “individuals who have distinguished themselves through their work or efforts, or to recognise the respect and high esteem in which they are held by the people of Edinburgh”.

The most recent recipient is the Edinburgh Squadron of the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, whose ancestor regiments were formed by Sir Walter Scott. Previous awardees include the Queen, Sean Connery and Chris Hoy. All worthy winners. Surely Ian Rankin should be the city’s next choice.

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