Brian Ferguson: Ian Rankin thrown by fan comment

Ian Rankin has had almost 30 years worth of appearing at Book Festival events under his belt and probably thought he had heard it all from his audiences.

But the final contribution from an overseas fan at his most recent event seemed to throw him, when she revealed that the Rebus books had inspired her family to relocate from the United States to Leith. She said: “We thought we could afford it based on reading your descriptions of it.”

He replied: “If you’d read Trainspotting instead of Rebus, you definitely wouldn’t have moved there.

“Weirdly, Leith is now where we all go if we got the money in our pockets for a Michelin-starred meal. But the thing to remember about Leith, as Leithers will tell you, is that it’s not in Edinburgh.”

Rankin, who has not held back in his criticism of a new national police force, also admitted even his neighbourhood in “leafy Merchiston” was not immune to crime. “We had a series of break-ins a couple of years ago. The police were bloody useless.”

Gone but not forgotten from the landscape in Edinburgh in August is Tommy Sheppard, founder of The Stand comedy club, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on the Fringe this year.

Author AL Kennedy was recalling her early forays into stand-up comedy and a first encounter with Mr Sheppard, who became an MP in May 2015 after winning Edinburgh East for the SNP.


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She said: “Tommy came up and sat on the sofa when I did my open mic night thing. He was just checking that I wasn’t there to write a novel about them.

“I told them I was just mental. They were very sweet and supportive.”