Author Rankin Offers a Rebus Introspection

By Behe, Regis | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Author Rankin Offers a Rebus Introspection


Behe, Regis, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When long-standing television programs end their runs, there often are public displays of affection by way of viewing parties and journalistic discourses about how folks are going to survive without their weekly visits from fictional characters.

For books -- save the end of the Harry Potter series -- there's far less fanfare.

But when Scottish writer Ian Rankin's "Exit Music" was promoted as the end of his Detective Inspector Rebus series in the United Kingdom last year, there were some unlikely public responses.

One longtime "hard-nosed" reviewer told Rankin he shed a few tears at novel's end. A legislator in the Scottish Parliament actually sponsored legislation that would allow police officers to retire at a later age just so Rankin could bring back his fictional creation.

The author also learned that U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown was reading the finale of the series.

"There's quite a reaction," Rankin says. "There's been a little bit of sadness, because Rebus is like a friend who has been around forever. But there's also been a great deal of interest in what comes next."

Rankin, the best-selling mystery and crime writer in the U.K., is stateside promoting "Exit Music," released in the United States earlier this month. It might seem odd to be revisiting questions about a book that is so far in his rear-view mirror -- a new novel, "Doors Open," already has been published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom -- but Rankin embraces the idea of talking about Rebus.

"Whenever I meet fans, the question is, 'What happens to Rebus?'" he says. "I'm having a hard time escaping from him, and as it were, it's good in a way. This tour is reinforcing my notion that I really need to do some hard thinking about, A, what happens next, and B, is there any room there for more."

For the uninitiated, John Rebus -- and Rankin himself -- have become Edinburgh institutions. The detective inspector, first introduced in "Knots and Crosses" 21 years ago, is acerbic and quick- witted, an officer of the law whose finely honed sense of justice guides him in everything he does. His interests, outside of police work, seem to be limited to visiting his favorite Edinburgh watering hole, the Oxford Bar, and listening to his collection of vinyl records.

And yes, there are those who confuse the writer and his creation. Rankin, who frequents the Oxford Bar, jokes that fans are frequently "disappointed it's me in the bar and not him" when the Rebus Walking Tours stop by the venue. …

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