Author's missed date with REM

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CRIME author Ian Rankin was stunned to receive an invitation to have dinner with his musical heroes - then gutted to find it was for three days before.

The Edinburgh-based novelist returned from holiday in the Spanish island of Majorca to find an out-of-date invitation from American rockers REM.

The band, understood to be big fans of the Inspector Rebus creator, also asked Rankin to be their guest at T in the Park at Kinross, which they headlined last week.

Rankin, who is a huge fan of the award-winning group, said he would have jumped at the chance to meet lead singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills. Speaking from his home today, Rankin said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he read that the band wanted to meet him.

He had just returned from a family holiday last Sunday when he opened the e-mail which had been sent during the week he was away.

"I was sifting through hundreds of unopened e-mails in my computer after I returned from holiday when I discovered this exciting invitation," Rankin said. "It was asking me to have dinner with REM and also to go with them to T in The Park.

"So I just couldn’t believe my luck when I realised that the meal was arranged for the previous Friday night while I was on holiday. I was gutted when I realised I’d missed my chance to meet them."

Rankin is known to be a big music lover. Speaking previously about moving house from Newington to Merchiston later this year, he said: "I’ll make sure my music system’s in the right place and then it’s up to the rest of the family where everything else goes."

REM’s representatives could not be contacted as the group are now heading to other gigs in Europe.

As well as T in the Park, the band took top billing at last month’s music festival in Glastonbury and are currently on a tour visiting Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. They are doing a North American tour later in the year.

The band have had a string of top ten hits across the world and several multi-platinum selling albums. They scored their biggest success with album Automatic For The People, which includes hit singles Everybody Hurts and Man on the Moon, in 1992.

The band, which was formed in 1979, has a huge, worldwide following which includes fellow celebrities such as U2’s Bono and David Gray.

They were hit by controversy last year when Peter Buck stood trial over an alleged air rage incident, in which he was accused of attacking two cabin crew and trying to steal a knife.

He was cleared in April last year of assaulting cabin crew and being drunk on a transatlantic flight.

He was said to have thrown yoghurt, upturned a trolley and grabbed a steward by his tie. But a jury believed his account that a sleeping pill he took soon after take-off had reacted violently with alcohol.

Fourth member Bill Berry quit the band in 1997 to spend more time on his farm with his family after he collapsed on stage following a serious illness.