Ian Rankin: Rebus book dated due to police changes

Ian Rankin with Grace Maxwell at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Ian Rankin with Grace Maxwell at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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IAN Rankin has admitted that his new book is out of date before it is even published - thanks to Scotland’s new national police force.

The Inspector Rebus author said he had discovered long-standing procedures and practices had been consigned to the past by Police Scotland after a visit to its headquarters.

They would parachute a team of detectives in

Ian Rankin

But he said he decided against making last-minute changes to his new book - Even Dogs In The Wild - which sees Rebus cross swords with long-time nemesis “Big Ger” Cafferty again.

The book, due for release in November, is the first novel to be published by Rankin since a self-enforced break from writing last year.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, he complained that the now-retired John Rebus and his regular sidekick Siobhan Clarke would now no longer lead real-life murder investigations in Edinburgh. Instead, Police Scotland would “parachute a team of highly skilled detectives into Edinburgh for a big murder case,” he said.

Rankin told his fans that he also been forced to retire Rebus from official police work for a second time after the rules over former officers working on “cold cases” were changed.

He told a packed tent in Charlotte Square: “Police Scotland - please, for God’s sake. Stop changing the rules. Just stop. I was at the headquarters recently at Gartcosh, sitting in a room with these very senior cops.

“I was going, ‘Do you still do this?’ ‘No.’ But when you’re investigating a murder you still do that?’ ‘No.’ ‘And internal affairs is still...?’ ‘No.’ ‘And what about forensics?’ ‘No, that’s changed as well.’ Everything in the book - well, not everything, but a lot of stuff - they wouldn’t do it that way anymore.

“They would parachute a team of highly skilled detectives into Edinburgh for a big murder case. It wouldn’t be the local team. It wouldn’t be Siobhan or Rebus. They would maybe be minions. A kind of crack team would be sent in. There’s one room set aside in the police station in Leith that is set aside for these big investigations.

“I looked at the book and thought, ‘Nah, I’ll changed it for the next book.’ But by the next book it might all have changed again. I just looked at them and said, ‘Don’t you guys ever think of all these Scottish crime writers? We’re doing our best for the economy and you’re scuppering us at every turn’.”

Meanwhile Rankin has admitted he took a year off from work after his wife Miranda told him: “You don’t want to die with your boots on.” The author said he was told to “step off the hamster wheel” after the death of some of his closest friends, including fellow author Iain Banks.

Rankin said he hardly missed writing at all during his 12-month hiatus, which he announced at the festival in 2013, when he admitted he was “knackered and shattered.” But the 55-year-old revealed he managed to fall back “in love” with writing again after trying his hand at “tiny micro-stories.”

Rankin revealed that he locked himself away at his home in Cromarty, in the Highlands, and ended up writing the first 100 pages of his new Rebus novel in just 10 days.

Rankin said: “Friends were dropping dead in their fifties. My wife said to me, ‘Step off the hamster wheel, let’s go and have some fun. You don’t want to die with your boots on, at the laptop, halfway through a book.’

“I didn’t sign a contract, and because I didn’t do that I didn’t feel under any obligation or any deadlines. I walked away from the book festival. I bought a fast car, bought a new hi-fi, and spent a lot of time travelling. It was great.

“It did re-energise me. When I came back, after then signed a contract in November last year, for two books over three years, I sat down in January to do the new book and it was just ‘boom.’

“It was unbelievable. I’ve got a house up in Cromarty, with no wifi or TV. I took my old coal-fired laptop up there and did 100 pages of the book in 10 days, 30,000 words. It just flew. I couldn’t believe it. It was like everything was just sitting there waiting.

“During the year off I hadn’t missed it at all. I just scratched around doing wee short stories just for my own entertainment.

“It was great fun because they were just for me. It took me way back to when I was a student in Edinburgh, writing for my own satisfaction. They were never going to get published. I must have written about 15 or 20 tiny micro-stories. I kind of fell in love with writing again through doing that.”