CRIME writer Ian Rankin has revealed he is taking a year off work because of health fears, just weeks after the death of his close friend and fellow author Iain Banks.
Rankin, 53, told an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival he is “knackered and shattered” ahead of the release of his latest Inspector Rebus novel and the premiere of his first stage play.
He said he had been shaken by good friends such as Banks and Gavin Wallace, long-time head of literature at the Scottish Arts Council, “dropping dead”.
The author also revealed he tackles the independence referendum in his next book and that Rebus is a No voter.
However, he said his publisher, Orion, had insisted he remove a reference to the First Minister’s special adviser from the book. He also suggested the firm would have preferred to avoid the emotive issue of independence completely.
The book festival has already held a special event to pay tribute to Wallace, who joined the arts council in 1997 and became one of the most widely respected figures in the Scottish literary scene. And Fife-born Rankin is taking part in a special event to honour Banks’ literary legacy at the festival on Sunday.
Asked at his own event what his plans were for 2014, Rankin said: “I’m going to have a year off next year. I’m knackered, basically. Bluntly, I’m just shattered. I need the batteries recharging big-time.”
He went on: “The kids are on the cusp of leaving home or have left home.
“Friends of mine are dropping dead. Gavin Wallace dropped dead at the age of 53 earlier this year. I’m 53. Then of course Iain Banks was taken from us at the age of 59.
“I don’t want to die slumped over my desk. So I’m taking a year off next year and doing some travelling.”
Rankin also spoke about the death less than two years ago of another close friend, singer-songwriter and fellow Fifer Jackie Leven, whose songs have inspired the titles of his last two books. “He was largely than life; he was a troubadour. He had a whole host of stories and was a great guitarist,” he said.
“We were supposed to be doing an event together at the Belfast Festival and he was replaced at the last minute by a friend of his who told me he was very ill. I rang Jackie’s manager and he told me he had three days left to live.”
Publicity material for the new Rebus novel – which features the controversial change to the “double jeopardy” law in Scotland – reveals it is set “with a referendum on Scottish independence around the corner”.
When the author was asked if there would be a Rebus novel set against the backdrop of the campaign, he said: “Not if my publisher has anything to do with it.”
He added: “There was a character in the new book who was a special adviser to the First Minister. But my publisher felt it slowed things down too much, this political sub-text, so she went. Because she is no longer in the book, there is no longer a connection to the First Minister’s office.
“There is some stuff about ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in the new book, a fair amount, actually. The justice minister has an accident, he is SNP, so he is ‘Yes’ and there is a businessman friend of Rebus’s who is very much at the forefront of the ‘No’ campaign, so there is quite a bit of jockeying.
“But I did like my special adviser – I am going to have to try to bring her back in some guise.”
Asked which way Inspector Rebus would vote, he said: “Rebus would vote No, Siobhan [Det Sgt Clarke] would vote Yes, and I’m somewhere in the middle.”
Rankin said he was “bricking it” over the prospect of his first play being staged at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh next month. Dark Road is being co-written with Mark Thompson, the theatre’s artistic director.
“We’ve not started rehearsals yet,” the author said. “I’m bricking it. Normally, when you’ve written a book, you write it out and go, ‘OK that works’. This is written, but I still don’t know that works. We won’t know if it works until we sit down with the actors and they begin to workshop it, which they do next week.
“That’s when the actors might say, ‘I don’t understand this, we need to change that’. I’ve seen the stage set, which looks fantastic, but the rehearsals are not till early September.
“Mark is very blithely saying, ‘We can be changing it up until the last minute. If it doesn’t work on the first preview night, we can change it’. What? That’s not how I work.”