October 29, 2009 / 2:04 PM / 10 years ago

Rankin's new detective may be back, Rebus in doubt

MADRID (Reuters Life!) - Best-selling Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin says he may write more books featuring his new fictional detective but has no plans to bring the legendary John Rebus out of retirement after 17 outings.

Since he first appeared in 1987, Inspector Rebus has made Rankin Britain’s top selling crime writer, won him the prestigious U.S. Edgar award, been dramatized on television and translated into 22 languages.

The hard-drinking burly detective, haunted by previous experience in the army, revealed a grim side of his Edinburgh home never seen by tourists and made the city as much of a character as himself.

Rebus finally reached compulsory retirement age two years ago in “Exit Music,” which left many readers wondering what the long-divorced detective would do with time on his hands.

Rankin has never ruled out bringing back Rebus, but says he has been two busy to think much about him after penning two novels, a novella and a comic book since then.

“Never say never, but I don’t have any plans for him right now,” Rankin said in a telephone interview.

In the first draft of his latest novel, “The Complaints,” Rankin brought back Rebus’s younger — and more disciplined — detective partner, Siobhan Clarke, but left her out of the final version.

“She was only there in a secondary role, so there is potential for her on her own,” Rankin said.


“The Complaints,” released in Britain already and due out in the U.S. next year, features Malcolm Fox, a detective who investigates alleged corruption by other policemen, a lonely task which often sparks resentment amongst his colleagues.

The financial crisis, unsold buildings and unemployment also loom large over contemporary Edinburgh in the novel.

“I enjoy spending time with him (Fox). He is usefully different from Rebus in his policing methods,” Rankin said, adding that Fox, too, could be back in future.

“Maybe in one or two books, but not 17 (like Rebus)!”

In his debut novel, Fox is initially entrusted with investigating an ambitious young colleague, Jamie Breck, but the two quickly become friends and cooperate on a murder case.

“They could be partners. In the first draft, Jamie was a bad guy, but in the end he comes out smelling like roses,” Rankin said.

Like many crime writers, Rankin defends his craft from charges that it is genre fiction, which is popular but seen as somehow inferior to high-brow literature.

Booker Prize winner and fellow Scot James Kelman angrily derided Scottish fiction at this year’s Edinburgh festival for being confined to detective writing and children’s novels.

“James is entitled to his opinion, and I’m a fan of his,” Rankin said. “It’s an ongoing debate, and we just have to keep trying to write better novels.”

But Rankin has no immediate plans to write anything, and has landed a deal to write one book every two years, rather than one a year, so he plans to take a year off after a busy 25 years.

“I’ll be 50 next year. It’s not a mid-life crisis, I’m not about to grow a beard and ride a Harley-Davidson,” he said. “I want to travel — and not write about the places I’m going to.”

Reporting by Martin Roberts, editing by Paul Casciato

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