LINE up a Scotch in the Oxford Bar and break the news gently to the chief constable - one of Scotland’s best loved fictional characters is to prowl the streets of Auld Reekie once again.
In news that will delight his millions of fans, author Ian Rankin has confirmed that his maverick detective John Rebus is to return in a new novel.
The Edinburgh writer is currently developing the plot for what will be the 19th instalment in a series that began nearly 30 years ago with the publication of Knots and Crosses.
With Rankin back behind his desk after a self-imposed 12 month hiatus from writing, there were fears among his loyal fanbase that his downtrodden, ill-tempered protagonist would not return with him in the form of a full-length novel.
But Rankin has subtly reassured his readers that Rebus is not yet ready for retired life, and will star in the as yet untitled work.
Last year, the 54-year-old published The Beat Goes On, a complete collection of his short stories featuring Detective Inspector Rebus, a project he now intends to follow up with his next novel.
The revelation emerged in a series of conversations on Twitter, of which Rankin is a prolific user.
Mulling over the preparatory writing process, he tweeted: “So much *plot* in this new book I’m doing, I’m having to focus on that so it doesn’t wriggle away from me. Character/nuance/etc for later.”
One of his followers, Claire Wright, asked the question that other readers were no doubt thinking, tweeting back: “Dare I ask if it is a Rebus?”
The response gave little in the way of detail, but it gave an unequivocal answer. “Yes,” Rankin replied.
Even so, another two of the author’s followers sought confirmation that Rebus was indeed coming back. Both times, Rankin confirmed the news, adding that the new novel would be set in the familiar streets of Edinburgh that have been well trodden by Rebus over the years.
He later added: “Once I know plot works, I can go back and fix/polish everything else. That’s the plan for now.”
One follower, teacher Ross McLaren wrote: “You sir, despite the 143 prelims I have to mark, have made my night!” Another, Steve Sherburn, tweeted: “Excellent.”
The details of Rankin’s next book suggest that, after much soul searching, he has struck upon a way of revisiting his most enduring character. He previously took a five-year break from the ageing police officer after the publication of 2007’s Exit Music, eventually releasing Standing in Another Man’s Grave.
In an interview last month, Rankin suggested Rebus would make a comeback but admitted he was struggling with how to make it happen.
He said: “He’s a year older, I’ve got to think what the hell I can do with him as he rapidly becomes an old man; what can I do with him realistically.
“I did retire him for five years, I didn’t write about him, but he never quite left my head; he refused to leave and when I did find a story I thought was perfect for him, I found a way to bring him back.
“He’s just one of these characters that I can’t stop writing about and I don’t know why. But I have to ask if he’s the best possible character now for the story I want to tell.”
Rankin added: “I’m still finding out about him even now after, God, I don’t know how many years I’ve been writing about him. The first book was written in 1985. What is that? Jesus, I don’t even want to think about it, that’s 30 years.
“He continues to surprise me, he’s still a useful tool for finding things out about the world, a means of investigating the world around us. I’ve tried to get rid of him but he wormed his way back in again.
“At some point the clock will catch up with him I guess.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS