Interview by Scott Butki
Ian Rankin brings three investigators – Rebus, Clark, and Fox – back together for his latest novel, Even Dogs In The Wild. Ian Rankin joins us at BookPeople Sunday, January 31st, at 3 PM to speak and sign his latest. Regular contributor to the MysteryPeople blog Scott Butki interviewed Rankin about his latest novel, writing the iconic Rebus, and his writer friends.
Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?
Ian Rankin: Someone in a bar told me the story of a drug dealer who supposedly hid a large stash of dope and money in some woods outside his village. When he died of natural causes, the villagers went on a treasure hunt. That gave me the notion of the treasure hunt, which I turned into a story involving gangsters on the trail of something stolen from them. Then one night an image came into my head of someone pointing a gun at another person. The gunman is in the garden of a house and it is night and the intended victim can’t see them. I wondered: who is the gunman, who the victim, why is this happening and what will the intended victim do about it? I had the beginning of my novel.
SB: I saw on the Internet where you mentioned, before the title was made public, that the title of your next book was also the name of a catchy song. Were you surprised to then have fans trying to guess the song title?
IR: It was part of the fun, letting fans know the book would be named after a song and then seeing if any of them could guess what it might be. (Nobody did, but then it is a pretty obscure song.)
“I feel sorry for fans who make the pilgrimage to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, seeking Rebus out and finding only his creator seated at the bar. I’m a bit of a let down – not as dark, brooding, complex or dangerous as Rebus!”
SB: As a fan I’m excited to have a book where you reunite three of your great protagonists – Rebus, Fox and Clark – with good old Cafferty. Was this one fun to write for that or other reasons?
IR: This book almost wrote itself. I didn’t write a book in 2014, so when January 2015 came round, it was as if the story was bursting to come out. I like all those characters you mention and the only way I can find out what’s happening in their lives is to keep hanging out with them!
SB: Why did you, a few years back now, try to have Rebus retire? Were you tired of writing about him?
IR: I was far from tired of writing about Rebus but the real world just caught up with him. He hit 60 and at that age he would be required to retire from the police force in real life. So that’s what happened. But I was pleased when I eventually found a way to bring him back!
SB: Were you surprised at readers wanting him to return? It reminds me a bit of when Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes but fans were outraged.
IR: I spent five years not writing about Rebus. I think fans were more worried about him than I was. My two Malcolm Fox books, as well as the standalone novel Doors Open, were number one bestsellers in the UK and elsewhere, which proved to myself and my publishers that readers wanted my books and not just John Rebus’s books. But when a new story demanded a retired cop to work on a cold case…well, why invent a new characters to do that job when I already had one to hand!
SB: How does it feel to have created and kept going such a beloved character?
IR: It is a huge responsibility, of course. I feel sorry for fans who make the pilgrimage to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, seeking Rebus out and finding only his creator seated at the bar. I’m a bit of a let down – not as dark, brooding, complex or dangerous as Rebus!
SB: What’s next in the series?
IR: Well, Rebus is no longer a cop, so that makes life tougher for me. But I have the beginnings of a new story and between January and June I hope to get it down on paper. I think there are roles for all the usual suspects, but let’s wait and see.
SB: What’s next for you? Do you work on other projects besides the books?
IR: I write the occasional short story, and sometimes get sidetracked by offers of comic books (graphic novels), stage plays, lyric-writing, TV appearances. But I try to limit those. Writing a book a year is about as much as I can manage in my dotage…
“Then one night an image came into my head of someone pointing a gun at another person. The gunman is in the garden of a house and it is night and the intended victim can’t see them. I wondered: who is the gunman, who the victim, why is this happening and what will the intended victim do about it? I had the beginning of my novel.”
SB: What would readers be surprised to learn about you?
IR: I’m not sure. My life is pretty much an open book. I had a brother who died before I was born. I sometimes wish I’d had a big brother.
SB: Alexander McCall Smith has several times referenced Rankin as an incidental character in his novels – are you and he friends?
IR: We live two houses apart on the same street, but don’t see one another that often. He’s often touring, as am I. Or else we are locked away writing. But we chat, maybe share a whisky and our thoughts about the world. JK Rowling lived around the corner for several years, but has moved to the other side of the city. But Kate Atkinson lives maybe half a mile away. It’s a city of writers, just as it was in the past.
All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. Wristbands are required for the signing and available with the purchase of a copy of Even Dogs in the Wild from BookPeople. If you purchase your book from BookPeople in advance of the event, please present proof of purchase to receive a wristband. We’ll begin distributing wristbands at 9:00AM the morning of the event.
Can’t make it to the event? To order a signed copy of an event book, go to bookpeople.com, place the book in your cart and indicate “SIGNED COPY” in the comments field during checkout.