CRIME writer Ian Rankin says he is struggling to come up with a Rebus follow-up - because reality is outstripping his imagination.
The Edinburgh-based author pointed to 'back-from-the-dead' canoeist John Darwin and fire-raising lord Mike Watson as examples of life being stranger than fiction.
Rankin, 47, has been looking for a new writing project since ending the popular Inspector Rebus series this year following 17 novels.
Switching on the Christmas lights in Morningside, he admitted that the case of John and Anne Darwin had left him dumbfounded.
"You really couldn't make it up," he said. "I've found to my cost that fiction has to be realistic. However, the real world doesn't.
"It proves that truth is stranger than fiction, I just wish I'd made it up.
"However, if I had, my publisher would refuse to print it as it's too unbelievable."
Citing disgraced Lord Watson, who was imprisoned after he set fire to curtains in the Prestonfield House Hotel, Rankin said the headlines could be more far-fetched than his novels.
He said: "If I was to put in one of my books that a prominent politician attempted to burn down a hotel in Edinburgh, people would say 'no, that can't happen'.
"But these things do happen in the real world all the time and people just accept it."