Up town, top Rankin

Ian Rankin at the Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy (All pics by Fife Photo Agency)
Ian Rankin at the Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy (All pics by Fife Photo Agency)

Ian Rankin, Fife born and raised, was back in the Kingdom on Sunday night, 30 years to the day that the first of his phenomenally successful Inspector Rebus series of books, Knots and Crosses, was released.

Now living in Edinburgh the best-selling author says he remembers the day well “because nothing happened”.

“It wasn’t a success,” he said, “I was living in London at the time. My wife was working as a civil servant and I was sitting at home trying to write more books.

“It’s also 32 years to the day that I got the idea. I know that because I wrote it in my diary.

“I remember getting the idea because it was the same day that I signed a contract for my first book, The Flood.

“But when Knots and Crosses came out it was, right, publication day. Anyone notice? No. OK, let’s carry on.”

Rankin celebrated the occasion with an evening at the Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy called Rebus: Son of Fife and spoke about some of the characteristics that make his creation so obviously a Fifer.

“He’s an outsider,” he said.

“He’s living in Edinburgh and he still doesn’t quite understand it and doesn’t feel that he quite fits in. And I’m like that, I’ve been living in Edinburgh more or less since 1978 and when I go for a drink with someone who was born and grew up in there they’ll talk about places that mean nothing to me.

“I’m conscious that there’s this other Edinburgh that I don’t know.

“They always say you need a lang spoon ti sup wi’ a Fifer. It’s not that we’re insular, but there is water between us and the major cities to the north and south, so there’s that sense that you’re almost in independent state and Rebus is an independent minded guy.

“He’s thrawn as well, he’s stubborn, I think that’s a Fife thing, and he’s got that dark sense of humour which is necessary if you’re a cop.”

Despite Rebus’s Fife roots he and Rankin have both become synonymous with Edinburgh and he has seen many changes in the capital over the years.

“Well, when I started writing the books there was no Scottish Parliament there, there was no tram system, and RBS was still a very small payer on the British and world stages.

“Psychologically I think Edinburgh has changed quite a lot, but structurally not so much. It’s hemmed in by water and hills so there’s not an awful lot you change.

“There are bits on the Royal Mile that are still like it’s the 19th century. Walk down a close and it could still be 200 years ago.

“There have been huge changes in Police Scotland in the last couple of years too, which is a pain in the rear for me.

“Siobhan Clarke who is still a CID Detective wouldn’t be in charge of a murder case any more. A team would be parachuted in from police HQ. So Rebus is well out of it now he’s retired.”

And what of Rankin himself? Has he changed much in the last three decades?

“Not really. I seem to wearing the same clothes! Of course, I’ve got more money in my pocket than I used to have, but I’m basically just the same guy from Cardenden who started writing books.

“Yes, my life has changed, I’m married, I’ve got kids, but I’m pretty much just the same.

“When I was a kid I’d be sitting in my bedroom listening to music and writing stories - that’s still what I do.”