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Document 1383

Interview 09: Ian Rankin on Rebus

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): SCOTS Project

Audio transcription

F606 Thank you. Erm, when I was starting to think about this interview, I came across what I thought was rather a nice quote from the Canadian author Margaret Atwood. And she said "wanting to meet an author because you like his work is rather like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté." [audience laugh] I'm not entirely sure what that means but it's certainly a great pleasure for me to talk to Ian Rankin this evening, cause probably like many of you I've been a fan of his books for many years now. I think most of us associate with, you with the Rebus stories and especially with the city of Edinburgh but I think you've actually lived in France for quite a long time, yeah?
M954 Erm I di- I lived in France for erm er six years er between nineteen [inhale] nineteen ninety and nineteen ninety-six. Erm, and so for a long time the majority of the Rebus novels were actually written in France. //Erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 everything from book three through to "The Hanging Garden" was actually written in France. Erm, so that was like books three to nine.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Plus all the Jack Harvey novels. And the three novels I wrote under a pseudonym. So I was sittin there in a little farmhouse, very run-down ehm farmhouse in the Périgord, ehm erm partly tryin to do the place up, and get it livable, erm and partly tryin to write novels set in Edinburgh,
F606 [laugh]
M954 Erm it was a, I mean it was kinna strange but at the same time it was actually quite wonderful. Because, I mean, several reasons: number one, I had no competition. //I mean writers//
F606 //Mm//
M954 especially in their early years, but certainly in in every stage of their career, are notoriously paranoid about other writers being more successful than them. //Erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 there was no other Scottish crime writer more successful than me in the Dordogne.
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh] //Right.//
M954 //I was number// number one in a field of one.
F606 Yeah. [audience laugh]
M954 So that was quite nice.
F606 Yeah.
M954 And also I had to erm invent Edinburgh //or reinvent Edinburgh,//
F606 //Mm//
M954 I kind of had to fictionalise Edinburgh to a certain extent, reimagine it, because I couldn't just walk out of my front door and check a fact or a detail.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm and that was quite useful. In fact, the the problem I had was when I moved back to Edinburgh I was very worried that I wouldn't be able to write about Edinburgh. It would become journalism or reportage; //it would cease//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 to be fiction //when I//
F606 //Mm//
M954 when I actually lived here.
F606 Yeah. Did you create it as being a somewhat worse place than it was, or is that really how you see Edinburgh as being a very sinister kind of place?
M954 Erm, well I mean, th- I suppose, you know, it's a cliché, but I see it as being a Jekyll and Hyde city. //I see it as being//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 a city of haves and have-nots, and I think it's very obvious to those of us who live in Edinburgh that there's this kind of wonderful centre which is, of which this building is part, which is this fantastic Georgian erm imprint erm of of what a city should be and of rationalism and order, erm but the city itself is surrounded by these pockets of deprivation, //which, I mean//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 especially in the nineteen seventies and eighties when I was living in Edinburgh as a student, erm you know, I mean I I was livin in the rougher parts of town erm for much of my time, and would read in the papers about Edinburgh havin the worst HIV problem in Western Europe, //or havin//
F606 //Mm//
M954 erm housin estates that were so run-down that the first work that Oxfam did on British soil was in Edinburgh. //Erm//
F606 //Was it?//
M954 and at the same time th- I was goin to the National Library every day, to do research on Muriel Spark, and //thinkin//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 there's this, th- there are these Edinburghs, there's not just this one city, there are //various cities;//
F606 //Mm//
M954 there's these kinna concentric rings. Erm and through Muriel Spark I got interested in Jekyll and Hyde, through, you know, Miss Jean Brodie //bein a descendant of//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 Deacon Brodie, who was the, erm, well one of the erm ideas behind Jekyll and Hyde. Erm and so I thought, I'm gonna write a crime novel, and the fi- "Knots and Crosses" was specifically consciously a-a-a- an updating slash rip-off of the themes of Jekyll and Hyde.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm, but nobody got it. Be- because the main character was a cop, it was a crime novel. Erm and the only reviewer who who actually got an inkling that there was a Jekyll and Hyde motif was a reviewer in the New York Times.
F606 Mm
M954 Erm so I thanked her for that. She was the only person who got it.
F606 Right. But nowadays your work is very widely translated. If you look up the BOSLIT website, you find there are t- ninety-eight translations of your books in circulation. And I think you said that was twenty-seven languages. Would you li- can you give us some idea of the spread of languages?
M954 Ehm, well one of the first was Welsh. //Erm//
F606 //Really? [laugh]//
M954 "Knots and Crosses" was translated into Welsh. But I remember gettin, and I can't find it, but I did get a letter from the the, whoever was publishin it in Welsh, I know it exists cause it's in the National Library in Edinburgh, although I've never seen a copy. Ehm, they said, "We're having problems havin all these Scottish names; we're gonna change them to Welsh names."
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh]
M954 And so they had the streets of Edinburgh teeming with Bronwyns and Dais,
F606 [audience laugh] //[audience laugh]//
M954 //erm which I thought was rather odd.// Er, but it doesn't seem to be odd to people who translate books. Do you know, in America they very blithely for years would change "pavement" to "sidewalk",
F606 Mmhm
M954 "boot" of the car to "trunk" of the car, even if the the person sayin the word was Scots and would never use that. ehm and just the last book that I wrote, "Fleshmarket Close"; they changed that in American to "Fleshmarket Alley",
F606 Uh-huh [audience laugh]
M954 ehm, a street that doesn't exist, because they felt that no American would know what a close was. Ehm so, I mean, the problems with translation aren't just in in other languages; they're actually in English as well. //Ehm//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 but I I th- what always annoyed me - it did annoy me for many years - was that all the time I lived in France, I was never translated into French.
F606 Mmhm
M954 and so I'd go to the local bar for a drink and they'd say "Oh, what have you been doing today? Writing a book?" "Oh, yes", "Translated it into French yet?", "No, not translated it." An I I didn't think they believed that I was a real writer, you know, it was some dilettante pursuit.
F606 Yeah.
M954 Ehm, and of course it's Sod's Law. As soon as I moved back to Edinburgh, I got a publishing deal in France. Ehm so the books are now happily ehm translated. And I did bring, I mean because we are in the French Institute I brought a few examples along. Ehm, because I think this is, you know, what you don't realise is that writers when they become successful, and they are translated into twenty-seven languages and they do have American publishing deals, eh, suddenly there's a weight of expectation on you, that means that you can't make it too difficult for the translator.
F606 Mmhm
M954 So my, you know, a lot of my translators were horrified by the early books which were full of puns. I mean the first book "Knots and Crosses", K-N-O-T-S. Impossible erm, to literally translate that into another language.
F606 Mmhm
M954 So that in erm in Fr- in French it became er "L'étrangleur d'Edimbourg", I believe, which er, there is there is a strangler in it and he does live in Edinburgh, but //that erm.//
F606 //[audience laugh] Yeah.//
M954 And this continued in French so that "Strip Jack" erm a a novel that I wrote in France but about a a Scottish MP called Gregor Jack, //who's being//
F606 //Mm//
M954 stripped of his good name and his worldy possessions and everything else. And Strip Jack is also a card game, Strip Jack Naked. So there are all these resonances in the title which translated in French as er "Piège pour un élu". erm "Trap for an elected representative". //Erm, which//
F606 //[audience laugh]// //[audience laugh]//
M954 //a- again, does exactly what it says on the tin.//
F606 [audience laugh]
M954 It does exactly what it says on the tin, but you don't get these //resonances.//
F606 //No.//
M954 Er, and and ehm, sometimes you know that's i- it's not always true, I mean, "Dead Souls" into French was was, you know, became "La mort dans l'âme" which basically is ehm "death in the soul". so "dead souls", "death in the soul". Ehm so sometimes you lose resonances and sometimes you don't. //What you do lose//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 in translation often is the eh, is the kind of flavoursome elements of a language. //The the texture,//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 the jokes, the puns, the slang. Ehm all the things that that make a book, eh that g- that give a book life, as far a- in the //t- and certainly in terms of//
F606 //Mm//
M954 the ehm dialogue. Ehm and in "Black and Blue" was the first book of mine where I really consciously did try and put in a lot of slang, even if I had to make it up. //So I invented//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 the term "biscuit tin" to mean a police interview room.
F606 Oh right.
M954 Ehm which in French became erm it became er "salle d'interrogation", //which er isn't, er doesn't quite have the same resonance.//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 An a an I u- a "woolly suit" er a police constable, someone in uniform was a "woolly suit".
F606 Did you invent that? //Wow. [laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 //I invented that, and erm and in French that became "agent".// //Ehm,//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 so you can see that you're you're sort of you know you're //frustrated.//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 But at least most of my French translators get in touch and we can discuss these things.
F606 Yeah.
M954 Erm i- ninety percent of my translators never get in touch; we never have a conversation, they never ask questions. And so, and you really are at the mercy of your translator. Ehm Japanese, I've no idea if the Japanese translator even bothers to try and get puns and local cultural references //into the books,//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 or do they just strip those out and go straight for the plot.
F606 Yeah.
M954 It's a it's a I mean I don't think it's easy bein a translator. I know they they work for poor wages, and they're up against deadlines and they translate lots of books.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Ehm so I know it's not easy, and I know that because I meet a lot of them. Ehm but it's, I mean it's a dark art. //And when they get it right,//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 I know when they get it right cause when they get it right I win awards in those countries.
F606 [audience laugh] Mmhm
M954 And that's when you know you get it right. And so far I've not won any awards in Japan.
F606 [laugh] [audience laugh] So have you had any fan mail or anything from more remote countries?
M954 I d- I mean I get yeah I get a lot of ehm emails especially now with the with the with the godsend internet to the website from all over the world. Ehm and sometimes it's people sayin "Oh this translator's good, that translation wasn't so good; they did do this, they didn't do that" which is always interestin for the next time round.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Ehm but ye- you get all kinds of bizarre things. People will say "What is a bunnet?" //And you'll have to//
F606 //[audience laugh] Yeah.//
M954 explain to them it's an, it's a it's a cap, it's a Scots word for a cap. Cause a lot of people will try, desperately, to read the books in English. //Because they//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 want that richness of language that you don't always get with a translation.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm and that means that they'll they sometimes do, you know, Swan Vestas, "What's Swan Vestas? Is it anything to do with swans?" //No it's a kind of match for lightin cigarettes.//
F606 //[audience laugh] [laugh] Yeah.//
M954 So there are various, I've I've actually toned that down a lot in recent books. //I think there's//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 not as many puns. There's certainly not as many obscure cultural references.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Ma favourite one though is er erm is a book of mine. Well G- Germany is is is difficult. Erm not, Germans are lovely people and I have a great time on a tour there, but for example there's a book of mine called "The Hanging Garden" which won a big erm crime prize in France, and it's about a World War Two //atrocity that happened in//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 a town near where I was living. Erm it's the only book of mine never translated into German. Erm and you might think well yeah, we know why that is. But they did translate ehm a book called "A Question of Blood" which was about a shooting in a high school, a posh private school outside Edinburgh. And at the beginning of the book Rebus is in erm hospital.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And he decides he's got to get out of hospital and he gets out of bed and he says to the guy in the bed next to him "You keep diggin; I'm gonna dribble the dirt out of my trousers". Ehm because to him hospital is a kind of prison camp.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And I went over to Germany to tour with this book and and my erm I I do a I tour Germany with this wonderful actor called Udo Wachtveitl, who's in a German cop show called "Tatort", which is like "Taggart". It's been around for ever; he was a young man when he started, and he's now kinna //grey an an an and er and//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 elderly lookin. Ehm an and he reads the bits out in German, I read them out in English; we have a great time. But he said er "Wh- this reference in Germany I don't understand 'Dribbling the dirt out of my trouser leg.' What does that mean?" "I don't get the re- " and I "Oh, right." //"You probably don't, you probably don't get too many POW films over here at Christmas, do you, Udo?"//
F606 //[audience laugh] [laugh]//
M954 And so I had to explain to him. So the translator had kept the reference in,
F606 Yeah.
M954 ehm but they hadn't questioned it and no-one in Germany knew what it meant because they don't get "The Wooden Horse" or "The Great Escape" every Christmas.
F606 Mmhm [laugh] Yeah. [audience laugh] Yes, so you would say that your writing has actually been influenced by the fact that you're being translated?
M954 I think, I mean, I I, you know, //I mean you shouldn't//
F606 //[cough]//
M954 be influenced by anything, but ehm to some extent it has. I mean I know that my erm Danish translator; erm, very nice guy who goes to a huge amount of trouble, he comes to Edinburgh, I take him round the places in the books, //he asks//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 lots of questions. Erm, you know, he was sayin "Oh my God, Ian, I can't, I've been trying to work out a card game for Strip Jack Naked", a card game that's Danish, that will have the same resonances as stripping someone naked and and he really goes be- you know beyond what you //should, you need to do.//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 Erm and because I saw how much agony I was puttin him through I think I did start to tone down //the erm amount of stuff in the books//
F606 //[audience laugh] Yeah.//
M954 that actually needed, erm, work. Ehm, but, you know, I hopefully I can still put i- I mean I would never have called "Fleshmarket Close" "Fleshmarket Alley", //just because the Americans wanted it to be that.//
F606 //Uh-huh// Yeah. Right. I do also wonder a bit how they cope with the character of Rebus.
M954 [cough]
F606 Ehm, you know, whether he is a particularly Scottish Jekyll and Hyde kind of character, in that he seems to do everything all wrong and then he's got this strong moral purpose and he ends up doing everything right. Or it all comes //right.//
M954 //Yeah, oh I I// In some ways I think he actually he's more like the erm the character of the American private eye.
F606 Mmhm
M954 He almost operates as a private eye. He's a a law unto himself and he operates at one remove from the main investigation.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm cause he doesn't like authority and he doesn't like being part of a team. So he's almost like a private eye. It's eh, and I was influenced in the early days by a lot of American cop no- I mean I much prefer the American cop novels to ehm British cosy //as well call them//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 Agatha Christie style, ehm spinsters and titled gentlemen, solving crimes in leafy ehm villages. //Ehm//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 with sort of, you know, sort of vicars and //bodies in the library and er cucumber sandwiches.//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 I I couldn't make much of that. I mean I wanted to write sort of quite gritty urban novels, //and so the//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 American model appealed to me. Ehm, I'm amazed at how often I get emails or when I'm touring abroad someone comes up to me in a book shop to get a book signed and says "I'm a cop. And we've got someone just like Rebus.
F606 Yeah.
M954 There's one just like him in our squad." And the number of Scottish cops from all over ehm the regions of Scotland, who've said, you know, "You must have based him on this guy I know". //[?]I say[/?]//
F606 //Mmhm [audience laugh]//
M954 "No, I didn't base him on anybody. He's he was meant to be an- the antithesis of me, //in a lot of ways."//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 Ehm he was never meant to be a real cop or or based on a real cop. But everybody seems to know someone who's like him.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And a- one of the biggest er compliments I got was when the chief constable, as was, of Edinburgh police reviewed one of the books in a ehm in a Sunday newspaper and said "I wish I had one like Rebus on the force. Just one." //Er, "There's room for one."//
F606 //Yeah. [laugh] [audience laugh]// //[audience laugh]//
M954 //Erm, "one rule-breaker".//
F606 Mmhm
M954 Ehm that of course is problematic, cause it means that if Rebus is the rule-breaker there's no room for anybody else in the books to be the rule-breaker. //Siobhan//
F606 //Mm//
M954 has to be on the side of the angels.
F606 But she's learning, isn't she?
M954 Well she's learning lots of his bad er //bad ways, yeah.//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 And there's this ridiculous thing that happened recently, where, you know, there's only a couple more books in the series, and then Rebus, cause the books exist in real time, //Rebus hits sixty and//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 you've got to retire at sixty if you're in the CID in Scotland. Ehm Helen Eadie, an MSP from Fife, who's a fan of the books, asked a question in the Scottish Parliament,
F606 [audience laugh]
M954 sayin "Can we change the rules," //ehm//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]// Uh-huh [audience laugh] //[audience laugh]//
M954 //"so that CID officers in Edinburgh can stick around till they're sixty-five?"//
F606 [audience laugh] //That's a g- very good idea.//
M954 //Er// well it's bizarre; I mean it's a fictional character for god's sake. //Ehm and the Justice Minister,//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 ehm, Cathy Jamieson I think it must have been, ehm said "well, a- there's actually a scheme where officers who are on, you know, who should be retired, can come back and, and," ehm, what was it, "pass their expertise on to younger officers". And I said "Well, yeah, but the problem with that is that Rebus has no expertise that the bosses at //er Fettes HQ//
F606 //Yeah. [audience laugh]// //[audience laugh]//
M954 //would want him to pass on to the younger officers."// So we've still got this impasse where I can't decide what to do with Rebus when he hits sixty.
F606 Yeah. I was quite surprised to read, I think the f- first one was a- two novels ago, where he appeared to be of Polish origin. //And that//
M954 //Mm//
F606 was news to me. //And I, yeah.//
M954 //It was the last novel; it was "Fleshmarket Close"//
F606 I wondered if maybe you were trying to prepare his old age in a //foreign country, no?//
M954 //No, I mean that's// one of these bizarre things where er real life er interrupts your your your fictional reverie, because th- Rebus if you look it up in Chambers Dictionary, is a picture puzzle.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And in the first novel he's being sent picture puzzles, so, being a postgraduate student of English literature and interested in semiotics and deconstruction, I called him Rebus. //I mean it was my joke.//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 There's Inspector Morse, which is a code; now we've got Rebus, which is a puzzle. Ehm and then when I moved back to Edinburgh from France, er almost the first guy I met in a pub was called Joe Rebus.
F606 Mmhm?
M954 And he's in the Edinburgh phone book. And erm and and he lives in Rankin Drive, //in Edinburgh,//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]// //[audience laugh]//
M954 //which is bizarre enough in itself,// but he told me it's a Polish name. He said it's //it's erm//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 er he himself c- has, you know, Polish grandfather. And, you know, i- then when I I was starting to think about asylum seekers for "Fleshmarket Close" I thought, well, Rebus himself comes from immigrant stock, //so that//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 gave the case a resonance that it might not otherwise have had. //So I was quite pleased//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 to find out that he was Polish. But I found it out completely by accident.
F606 Yeah, right. [laugh] [audience laugh]
M954 And it's "Rebus", if you want to be Polish.
F606 Oh right. //[audience laugh]//
M954 //And there should be a little// dash above the "u". Or the "s". //I forget.//
F606 //Right.//
M954 Someone from Poland emailed me to tell me how to do it.
F606 [laugh] [audience laugh] Yeah, cause I think a lot of people thought it was "Rebus" at first, //as if it was Latin.//
M954 //"Rebus" or "Rebus".// Aye, I me- well, I mean, you know, I don't know how you pr-, I mean, "Rebus" would be the Latin, //Ehm//
F606 //Uh-huh//
M954 R- "Rebus" makes it sound more Scots, and "Rebus" if you want to go for the Polish. Aye, I don't know.
F606 Yeah. [laugh] I mean that leads on to translating in to different mediums. You know, there's been a TV series, and I gather there's going to be another one. Ehm, do you have any input into that, or is is that just something that //happens?//
M954 //Ehm// No I get n-, I, well I didn't want input, to be honest with you. I I erm, my god, I mean the saga of Rebus on TV goes back to the very first book. When the v- when the very, when "Knots and Crosses" was published, I got an offer from erm Leslie Grantham, who at that time was playing Dirty Den in Eastenders. //The actor.//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 And he and a a producer were gonna set up their own company, and and er he was gonna play Rebus which would have meant, I think, movin "Knots and Crosses" down to London, and they would just have used the plot, and that would have been the end of Rebus the the fictional detective, I think. //Erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 But that didn't happen; that fell through, because my agent disappeared. Erm, mysteriously. //erm halfway through negoc-, it's true, she did.//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 Halfway through negociations, and that all fell apart, thank goodness. Ehm and then the BBC got hold of the option for a while, and took me down to London and said, you know, "What does Rebus look like?" and I said "Well, I've no idea, I never //describe him physically in the books."//
F606 //Mm//
M954 I said "I know he's been in the SAS at one time, he's been trained for the parachute regiment, he's been pretty tough at one time, he's slightly gone to seed, but, you know." They said "We're thinkin of Robbie Coltrane." //And I said, well you know like, I said, the er the//
F606 //Oh [laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 flashbacks to his army trainin are gonna be just excellent. //and they said yeah.//
F606 //[audience laugh]// //[audience laugh]//
M954 //Er//
F606 [audience laugh] //[audience laugh]//
M954 //Over that wall, Corporal Coltrane!//
F606 Yeah. [audience laugh] //[cough] [audience laugh]//
M954 //Through that wall, Corporal Coltrane! And er// so that all fell through. And then John Hannah's production company erm picked it up, and er and I knew damn fine that that meant that John Hannah, young, cuddly, good-looking John Hannah would be playing Rebus.
F606 Mmhm
M954 So we had a meeting and and and that was about as much input as I had was to take him out for a few drinks and get him in character, as it were. //Erm//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 it was meant to be dinner; it ended up being a ten-hour drinking festival round the streets of Edinburgh. Ehm, but, you know, he did it for for three, four, I think four erm films he did it for. And then he decided he was too busy elsewhere, in Hollywood and elsewhere, and ITV persuaded erm Ken Stott, the fans' favourite, judging by the emails I get, erm Ken Stott to come back to Edinburgh and do it. And he did. He filmed two during the summer.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm and I didn't see the scripts, I never saw the John Hannah scripts, I never watched the John Hannah version and I won't watch the erm Ken Stott version. Cause I don't want actors' voices, not so much the faces but more the voices, gettin inside my head,
F606 Mmhm
M954 and interfering with the voices that I've got there already. Erm but I've seen lots of stills of it and and I th- it looks great, I mean it's really nicely shot, erm, and in fac- ITV have done something that I don't think they've done before. On the strength of havin seen the two rough cuts of the "The Falls" and "Fleshmarket Close" they immediately erm green-lighted, or whatever you say, erm four more.
F606 Mmhm
M954 So that's them up to six. But the bad news is that once they've done eight, in total, including the John Hannahs, once they've done eight, they can make up their own storylines.
F606 [tut] Really?
M954 That was that was part of the deal, //erm//
F606 //Uh-huh//
M954 which happened with Morse as well,
F606 Mm
M954 when they ran out of Morse novels they started makin up their own, which was great news for Colin Dexter, the Morse author, cause he just started pinchin their ideas, and turning them into novels.
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh]
M954 and who knows if that'll happen. But I've I've been told that the first erm the first one I think's gonna be January the second.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm and it'll be "The Falls". And if I make it past the cutting room floor, I do have a scene. I do have a little cameo. I am the anonymous, erm, anonymous bystander who rescues a woman from being mugged.
F606 [tut] Gosh. [audience laugh]
M954 Which was quite interesting in itself. I took my son along to the last day of shooting in Edinburgh. And they said "Oh, we've got a wee cameo you could do. You sort of walk down the street. A woman's being mugged and and you rescue, you stop her from", "Oh right" and he said "Right, we'll set the scene for you. The red-haired guy, the guy who's been sending Rebus the anonymous notes, erm, is about to mug Rebus's girlfriend Miranda". And er you come and st- and I said "Oh right, wait a minute, which book is this?" He said "Oh, it's 'The Falls'", I went "Girlfriend called Miranda?" "Oh, it- she's not in the book, not in the book."
F606 [audience laugh] //Yeah I was-//
M954 //"And the red-haired guy with"// "No, he's not in the book either."
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh]
M954 So how much of the book makes it onto screen, who knows?
F606 Yeah. And do you find this a bit disconcerting, or do you just wash your //hands of it?//
M954 //It's just a// it's just another interpretation, isn't it? I mean //it's just another version//
F606 //Yeah.//
M954 of the the books. Erm I mean the best an author can hope for is that people go and buy the books once they've seen the TV series.
F606 Yeah.
M954 You know, people who might not have read a Rebus novel will be intrigued or interested, or will see Ken Stott on the cover of the paperback. //And will buy it.//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 And that might lead them to the other books.
F606 Yeah. Mmhm But you're fairly sure in your own mind there's only going to be two more.
M954 Well I'm fairly sure. Fairly sure. But you n- never say never, you know? //Erm//
F606 //Eh//
M954 as they say in James Bond. Erm, never say never because, er, you know, Conan Doyle, was fairly sure when he finished the erm //the Sherlock//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 Holmes books, that there would be no more Sherl-, I mean he murdered him for god's sake. //He he//
F606 //[audience laugh] Yeah.//
M954 stuck him off the Reichenbach Falls. And then brought him back and he brought him back not because the books he wrote afterwards weren't successful, but because his publishers waved a lot of money in his face.
F606 Mmhm
M954 So never say never.
F606 Right. [laugh] [audience laugh] Erm I mean I think it's it's a feature of modern detectives that they're fairly miserable and unsuccessful in all other areas of their private lives, like Morse and Dalziel and, erm, I mean is there any reason for that? Is this a reaction to Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot or
M954 I think it just makes them more interesting. //I think damaged//
F606 //Mm//
M954 people are more interesting. I think complex people are more interesting. Erm if you've got a complete goody-goody cop, erm I I just, you know, who does the day job, forgets about it when they go home to their family and their //two point four kids,//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 and and has a a good social life, I just think that it's not as interesting. //Erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 I you know I'd much rather read about damaged individuals, individuals who might just about to be go over the edge, you know? //Erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 individuals who are always staring into the abyss. Er the- the- they interest me more, and that's why I I like Rebus. And eh, having set him up as a kind of loner cop, every time I've tried to introduce him to friends and potential partners, he's, it just hasn't worked.
F606 Yeah.
M954 Er and that's not me, I mean I keep trying. It's him. //He he rejects them all,//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]//
M954 and and is quite happy to be a loner, and er, erm I mean I think that's partly because he's obsessed with the with the job. I mean the job has become his lover, his partner, his life. Erm and I mean that cuts both ways. I mean the reason that's happened is that he then, because he's fascinated, because he- he's erm an obsessive who gets totally involved in a case, makes him a very good cop, but it means that he doesn't have to think about the vacuum or the the emptiness in his own life, //cause he's too busy//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 involving himself in other people's lives, for a short space of time. //Erm//
F606 //Mm//
M954 and I think that makes him a good cop, but it makes him a bad social human being. Erm then again maybe, you know, maybe he was always meant to be that; maybe he was always meant to be that kind of erm terrier type cop who just gnaws aways at a case like a bone, //until he gets to the marrow,//
F606 //Mm//
M954 and was never meant to have a happy social life and er I mean I think he reflects authors in a l- in a lot of ways, I think authors are //are loners,//
F606 //Mm//
M954 do you know, we'd much rather be sittin in a room on our own with a a computer or a pad of pen and and some paper, ehm than be gregarious figures who go to parties and and book launches and all the rest of it. Erm, you know, we are loners, I mean we- we're happiest inside our own heads,
F606 Yeah.
M954 makin adventures, erm playing let's pretend games with our invisible friends. The way everybody does as kids but writers just never grow out of it. So I mean I think that's true, and also I think that erm that writers are like detectives as well, you know, we're sort of worrying away at a question that we've got about the way the world is, and erm using our characters to try and come to some conclusions about it.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And eh, and I mean I I do think that the detective is a good counterpoint for the author,
F606 Yeah.
M954 to that extent, and that's why I think crime fiction should be taken more seriously, //erm//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 by the likes of the Booker Prize committees, //erm, but that's a very different question.//
F606 //[audience laugh]// Yeah, right. [laugh] Cause I noticed in your most recent book, the "Rebus's Scotland" that it's almost as if it was about both of you as people, you know?
M954 Well, "Rebus's Scotland" is a very odd book, because it started off just being a book of photographs //by the people who//
F606 //Uh-huh//
M954 used to do the jackets, until very recently did all the paperback jackets and the hardback jackets. And they had hundreds of photographs, and they said they were going to put together a a a picture book of Sc- the Scotland the tourist doesn't see. //And I said//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 "well, I'll do some text to go with it," and then when we started bouncin it backwards and forwards it suddenly became partly Rebus's biography, partly my autobiography and partly a book about modern Scotland; it's a very odd hybrid. //It's not quite//
F606 //Mm//
M954 travel, it's not quite history, it's not quite autobiography.
F606 Mmhm
M954 Erm it's a it's a strange book, but in some ways I think it's a it's a very wonderful book, because it gave me an ex- a a a a chance to say that Rebus's Scotland isn't necessarily my Scotland.
F606 Yeah.
M954 The thing about writing crime fiction is that you're not dealing with happy shiny people.
F606 Mmhm
M954 You know, cops of necessity deal with victims of violence, families of victims, perpetrators, //with the dregs//
F606 //Mmhm//
M954 of society, with problems, with social problems, social exclusion, you name it. Ehm, so Rebus can't see what a wonderful city Edinburgh is, and what a great country Scotland can be.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And so it was the chance for me to put the record straight. I was gettin a bit bored gettin emails from people in Aberdeen sayin "Why do you not like Aberdeen?"
F606 [laugh] [audience laugh] //[audience laugh]//
M954 //You know?// //I love Aberdeen; Aberdeen's a great city to visit.//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 Erm, Rebus hates Aberdeen. Ehm, "Why do you no like Glasgow?" Well I like Glasgow, I love visitin Glasgow, but Rebus doesn't like Glasgow. //So it was a chance to put the record straight//
F606 //[laugh]// //Mmhm//
M954 //about all these things.//
F606 Yeah. //And you als-//
M954 //And and stop people// //thumpin me when I go into pubs in Glasgow.//
F606 //[laugh] [audience laugh]// Yeah, [inaudible] I mean you also y- appear yourself in a very nice novel, "44 Scotland Street" as a character, yeah.
M954 Yeah. Well that's because I live on what's c- become known as "Writers' Block", //which is er ehm Merchiston; there's me,//
F606 //[audience laugh] [laugh]//
M954 and two doors away is Alexander McCall Smith, and at the top of the road is J K Rowling. And there's a bunch of other writers as well. There's another crime writer called Lin Anderson who lives just round the corner. And there's a children's author, and I'm gonna forget her name now, but she wrote a book called "Fleshmarket". erm before I wrote "Fleshmarket Close", but her book was set in the nineteenth century so it wasn't a problem. Erm, I want to say Nicole Sturgeon but I know it's not that. Anyway, ehm, //so, yeah,//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 so there's a bunch of writers round there, and and Alexander McCall Smith said "Oh," you know, "I want to put you in ehm '44 Scotland Street' ". He said, "Here's the layout." He said, erm, "The local Conservative Association have mislaid this expensive painting," erm It's gone into a junk shop. Now you know a bit about art, so you've go into the junk shop, seen it, and you've actually bought it. They track you down to the house, they come and they ask for the painting back. I think it's supposed to be a Peploe.
F606 Mm
M954 Ehm and er and you give it back to them.
F606 Mmhm
M954 And I said "Well, Sandy, there's only two basic problems with that scenario." Er, one is that if I'd found a Peploe in a junk shop, there's no way I'm givin it //back to anybody.//
F606 //[audience laugh]// //[cough]//
M954 //Eh, and number two, certainly not to the Conservative Association.// //And er,//
F606 //[laugh] Yeah. [audience laugh]//
M954 so he was horrified at this and said "but for the structure, for the narrative, you need to do it." So the Ian Rankin that appears in "44 Scotland Street" is a much nicer
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh]
M954 Ian Rankin than the one in real life. But apparently I pop up in the new series as well,
F606 Oh
M954 where one of the one of the characters talks about, has to go to a police station and somebody explains to them why it's not as grim as it is in an Ian Rankin novel. //Erm//
F606 //[audience laugh]//
M954 I I did a a thing with Sandy recently, and er Sandy McCall Smith recently and somebody asked, you know, "Are you not gettin fed up of Sandy McCall Smith writing about you?" and I said "No, revenge is a dish best served cold."
F606 [audience laugh] [laugh] Yeah. Well I think on that note //thank you very much. [laugh]//
M954 //[laugh]//
F606 We'll look forward to that. [clapping]

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Interview 09: Ian Rankin on Rebus. 2021. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved February 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1383.

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Information about Document 1383

Interview 09: Ian Rankin on Rebus

Audio

Audio audience

Adults (18+)
Teenagers (13-17)
General public
Informed lay people
For gender Mixed
Audience size 100+

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous

Audio footage information

Original title Interview with Ian Rankin
Year of recording 2005
Recording person id 607
Size (min) 30
Size (mb) 144

Audio medium

Other Public interview

Audio setting

Recording venue French Institute
Geographic location of speech Edinburgh

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Professional relationship
Not previously acquainted
Speakers knew each other No

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 718
Year of transcription 2005
Year material recorded 2005
Word count 6552

Audio type

Interview

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 606
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Academic
Place of birth Edinburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's place of birth Leith
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's place of birth Edinburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All
Scots No Yes No Yes Work

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 954
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1960
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Author
Place of birth Cardenden
Region of birth Fife
Birthplace CSD dialect area Fif
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Grocer
Father's place of birth Cardenden
Father's region of birth Fife
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Fif
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Factory worker
Mother's place of birth Bradford
Mother's region of birth Yorkshire
Mother's country of birth England

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
French Yes Yes No Yes
German Yes Yes No Yes
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes

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