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Stalking Ian Rankin

August 21, 2018

Okay, I’m not actually stalking Ian Rankin. For one thing I’m on the wrong continent.

I’m following him on Twitter.

I came to the twitterverse late and only because I was told that writers must have a Twitter account. I still generally agree with Tilly that TweetsR4Twats. (Two words if you disagree: Donald Trump.) My account has a handful of followers who seldom hear from me.

It wasn’t until I acquired a tablet and downloaded the Twitter app that I realised I could use it to follow interesting people, including favourite writers. Rankin, like Caitlin Moran, tweets a lot, not so much Christopher Brookmyre (although he did introduce me to Doug Johnstone). Rankin is quite prolific.

In the past couple of months I’ve learned a lot. (And been introduced to wonderful new-to-me authors, including Liz Nugent and Stav Sherez.)

For example…

oxford bar

People actually send him post care of the Oxford Bar. And he collects it from the landlord.

Best Picture

He is in a band called Best Picture. The band had its first ever gig in Kendal on July 28.

A week earlier, on July 21 at 8:57am, he tweeted this offer.

My lovely publisher just sent me 2 bound proofs of the next Rebus – to win one, RT this and I’ll pick winner at random tomorrow…

Less than half an hour later…

Strewth – over a thousand of you have RT’d so far. I’m going to lob in the other proof copy – two up for grabs. Seems only fair. UK/overseas..

The next morning…

But since 10,000 of you took part (!!!) I’ve added eight more wee gifts. I will DM all winners to get addresses. Thanks so much to you all.

Of course I retweeted the original post. Sadly, I wasn’t one of the winners.

He’s a very prolific tweeter, I’ll give him that. (I’m assuming this is the summer off between novels, because I don’t know how he could send so many tweets and get any writing done.) On July 12 alone, while he was in Liverpool, there were twelve tweets, including this photo.

beatles

In early July, as football fans went mad over the world cup, the Scottish Book Trust was running Scottish Novel World Cup, the two finalists of which were Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses. Whilst I suspect those 10,000 followers may have had something to do with Rebus getting that far, the winner was Miss Brodie.

Rankin’s tweets on this subject led me to reread my copy of Brodie. It had been a long time and it was once again delightful. I also intended to reread Knots and Crosses, but when I went to the bookcase it wasn’t there! WTF? I know I have read and have copies of every single book Rankin has written since – and including – his first Rebus. Obviously at some point over the years I’d loaned it to someone and it hadn’t been returned. (I hate that.) Nothing would do but ordering another copy.

The copy that arrived was a 2005 rerelease of the novel, complete with an introduction from the author. In this I discovered that in 1985  – the year of Rebus’s birth – Rankin was “a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, studying the novels of Muriel Spark”. (A delicious irony there, don’t you think?)

According to Rankin: “At the time, I had no interest in reading detective fiction and no knowledge of police procedure. I also had no notion that Knots would be the first book of a series. This led me to blithely give Rebus a complex personal history and name which was one of many in-jokes in the book (a rebus being a pictorial puzzle). In fact, rereading the book now, I find myself blushing at the number of literary puns and references (including nods to Spark, Mailer, Anthony Burgess and Thomas Pynchon). Rebus himself is too well-read, quoting from Dostoyevsky. He thinks like the student/novelist who created him, rather than as a real cop. The sky is described as being ‘dark as Wagnerian opera’, while the phrase ‘the manumission of dreams’ sent me (in 2005) to a dictionary. I’m guessing it was a word I’d only just learned in 1985, and I was keen to show it off.”

It sent me to a dictionary, too. Manumission means released from slavery or set free. Now you know. (Seriously, has anyone reading this ever heard of the word?)

And so I reread Knots and Crosses. Things came back. Oh, right, Rebus and Gill. Oh, right, the reporter Jim Stevens. I’d forgotten about him. But mostly I was shocked by how much Rebus has changed and evolved since this first iteration. Thank heavens he is still going strong.

“One other thing about Rebus: he dies at the end. Not in the final draft, obviously, but that was my original plan. If I’d stuck to it, I don’t know what I’d be doing now.”

Indeed.

 

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