Ian Rankin @ The Ivy Bookshop

On Saturday, February 11, 2017, Ian Rankin brought his 30th Anniversary of Rebus Tour to The Ivy Bookshop in Mt. Washington, Maryland.

The bookshop was filled to capacity as befits an author or Mr. Rankin’s stature, along with the fact that his tours of the US are less frequent than some other UK-based authors.

As always, I like to post here a few highlights as I know there are many readers who are not in locations where these tours might stop, but who are none the less interested in hearing what their favorite authors have to say.

  • Ian talked a bit about how the toughest translations are sometimes from English to English (that is, from UK to US). He agrees that sometimes publishers don’t give readers enough credit for being able to understand the differences.
  • Ian never set out to write crime fiction, he thought he was writing the great Scottish novel.
  • Knots and Crosses is his take on the Jekyll and Hyde story (ultimate battle between good and evil).
  • Ian is a huge fan of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He referred to it as a TARDIS of a novel – with layers uncovered each time a reader enters.
  • Rebus’s name comes from the title given to those picture puzzles you often find in the newpaper. (There was a fun story about a coincidence with the name Rebus, but this is best experienced with Mr. Rankin telling it).
  • Rebus and Cafferty are similar in that they are both men who see the world around them changing and worry about where their place in such a changing society might reside.
  • The books are generally written in “real time,” with Rebus aging between books, so when Ian found out that detectives in Scotland must retire at 60, he found himself at a crossroads. Of course, he ended the series for a bit until he found a way to bring Rebus back in another way (in Standing in Another Man’s Grave).
  • Ian also said that new readers can easily start with Standing in Another Man’s Grave, since it is like the start of a second series.
  • Ian’s wife suggested that perhaps Rebus had been too lucky health-wise throughout the series – especially given his lifestyle choices – so in the latest book Rebus is dealing with COPD – annoying, but not life-threatening.
  • Ian says that like many authors, he is really a frustrated rock star. This is part of the reason the later books in the series are drawn from song lyrics.
  • Ian feels that knowing a character’s interests (musically speaking) is a shorthand way of knowing something very deep about their character.
  • Ian starts his books by coming up with the theme he wants to write about. This leads him to a plot and then he decides which character best fits that plot. He doesn’t typically know the ending when he starts.
  • Ian writes a first, very rough draft that no one sees in about 30-40 days. Then he does his research. This helps him avoid wasting time on research that while interesting is not really necessary for the book-at-hand. His wife helps with editing and plotting issues during the second draft.
  • Ian Rankin is mentioned in several novels by Alexander McCall Smith. He may someday return the “favor.” They are friends and neighbors.
  • Ian referred to a quote by Muriel Spark about the nature of writers. She referred to it as “loitering with intent.” Authors pick up useful tidbits from every interaction.
  • Showing how humble he is, Ian says that Knots and Crosses is over-written – a hazard of many first time novelists.
  • Ian briefly discussed the similarities between Rebus and Harry Bosch.
  • My favorite moment: One young child in the audience asked if Ian had ever seen the Loch Ness Monster. He said that while he had not, this did not mean it didn’t exist. And that if she believes it does, than it exists.

The evening ended with a book signing, of course. Ian was most gracious to everyone in attendance making this a wonderful experience for all involved. I was thrilled to thank him for touring the US and to tell him how excited I am that he is one of the International Guests of Honor for the 2018 Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ian’s most recent book is Rather Be the Devil and is available now.

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