Forgotten Ian Rankin scripts for supermarket sitcom and crime drama found in archive gifted to nation

Ian Rankin was at the National Library today to discuss the donation of a vast personal archive dating back to 1972.
Ian Rankin was at the National Library today to discuss the donation of a vast personal archive dating back to 1972.
Share this article
0
Have your say

Best-selling author Ian Rankin has uncovered long-forgotten scripts for a sitcom and a crime drama series in a vast personal archive he has donated to the National Library of Scotland.

The crime writer revealed neither he nor his wife Miranda had any recollection of the projects he attempted to pursue before his Inspector Rebus books took off.

The treasure trove of material donated by Ian Rankin to the National Library has filled more than 50 boxes.

The treasure trove of material donated by Ian Rankin to the National Library has filled more than 50 boxes.

He hopes that other long-lost material could be unearthed on a number of floppy discs in the archive which he has been unable to access, but are now in the collection of the National Library of Scotland with the rest of his archive.

The scripts could see the light of day next year in a forthcoming exhibition of highlights drawn from more than 50 boxes of manuscripts, letters and other paperwork kept by Rankin, a self-confessed “utter hoarder” for five decades.

Read more: Ian Rankin donates personal letters from JK Rowling and Iain Banks to the nation

Rankin has been unable to track down the earliest draft of the first Inspector Rebus novel Knots and Crosses - in which he killed off the detective at the end of the book. However when he was packing up before his recent move he discovered two full-length scripts he could not remember writing.

He said: “There was script for a sitcom set in a supermarket. I don’t even know if I ever sent to the BBC or ITV. There was also a script for a drama series about an undercover cop investigating the drugs trade in London.

"There was screeds and screeds of it. Miranda and I couldn’t really remember them at all. My agent only had very vague memories.

“Nothing is lost. Any producer is free to come in and look at the archive and see if there is anything they want to take away and turn into a film or TV show!

"But I think it will be really interesting for writers of the future to see that I was scrabbling around and looking for things that would maybe make a buck and that not everything I wrote was successful."

Rankin, who revealed he is paying for the National Library to recruit a curator for the archive, hopes an exhibition will be staged next year to coincide with his 60th birthday.

He said he had no alternative but to find a new home for his archive, which goes back to 1972, after he and Miranda decided to downsize from their long-time home in Marchmont to a new apartment in the Quartermile development overlooking the Meadows, as it had “hee-haw” storage space.

Rankin also revealed the couple are still unpacking dozens boxes in their new home after having to spend three weeks in a hotel “living out of a suitcase” as their new flat was not ready in time.

He said: “It was absolutely the house move that prompted the approach to the National Library.

“We spent years gradually upsizing and eventually ended up with a really big house. We had a huge attic, a workshop, and a garage full of boxes and books, and my office was really cluttered as well.

“I’m getting on for 60 now. You get to the point where you have to start making some life choices. When your kids have left home you feel like you’re rattling around. Old houses with big gardens need a lot of looking after.

“We’ve gone from an eight-bedroom house in Merchiston to a three-bedroom flat in Quartermile. Modern flats have no storage space, so we knew we had to do something, and I didn’t want to leave all the clutter to my kids.

“I’ve given the archive to the National Library for nothing. I didn’t want or need the money and I was just grateful that they took it.

“I’ve given them some money so they can get a full-time archivist in over the next year.”

Rankin admitted going through personal correspondence from writers who had passed away in recent years, including fellow Scot Iain Banks, Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter and crime writer Ruth Rendell, had made him “hugely sad.” He has also kept cards and letters from JK Rowling and Val McDermid.

Rankin recalled having to write two books a year to try to eke out a living as a fledgling novelist and that the first hit Rebus novel, Black and Blue, which was the eighth in the series, only made him £10,000 when it came out in 1997.
He added: “It wasn’t very much money, especially as you would only get it in tranches.

“We were away in London and France for 10 years and couldn’t afford to get our own place in Edinburgh when we moved back in 1996. It wasn’t until a few years later that I got a big enough royalty cheque to allow us to get a mortgage.

“We had two kids by then. It was tough times. The writing was always an escape from it as well as confronting it.
“You definitely get a sense of that from some of the correspondence and the notes I was taking at the time.”

“You can definitely see a real progression in the archive from when I first came to Edinburgh and was only writing poems, to writing for the student newspaper, reviewing events at the book festival, writing short stories, winning a few prizes, and getting the first novel published and then making a real go of it as a full-time writer.”

The archive, which now takes up more than 21 feet of shelving in the national collection, includes the original manuscript for the first Inspector Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, which was partly written and set in the library’s headquarters on George IV Bridge.

National Librarian John Scally said: “Ian Rankin is a well-known face to us here at the National Library.

“We knew him when he was researching Muriel Spark as part of his PhD, and we knew him when he penned his first novels here in our very reading rooms.

“Little did we know then just how successful he was to become, and that in time, his archive would be as gratefully received as Spark’s. It will be preserved into perpetuity alongside other Scottish literary giants.

“Rankin’s main protagonist, John Rebus, has walked George IV Bridge many times, and frequently visited this very Library while researching cases.

“We are honoured to be a character in the Rebus novels alongside the city of Edinburgh, and we feel this is the rightful home for Ian’s archive. Because of his generosity, readers will be able to gain insight into the creative process of this wonderful writer."