Monday, September 17, 2007

Rankin -- and maybe another Rebus?

The last author to speak to our group was also the biggest name in mystery writing in the U.K.: Ian Rankin, a funny, engaging speaker (shown here with tour guide Ros Hutchison). We'd studied Rankin and his first book, Knots and Crosses, before meeting him -- a book very much inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which, while set in London, is really modeled on Edinburgh). In this first book, we have Rebus, a character who has involuntary flashbacks and doesn't allow himself to explore his consciousness, therefore "hiding" himself, as our study leader Carol Kent describes it. Both books have a deeply flawed character with a dark side, and both feature young girls as victims. In Knots and Crosses, the plot even converges at a gothic library.

If you read Knots and Crosses with Jekyll and Hyde in mind, you get that right away. But reviewers of that first book didn't, prompting Rankin to write a second book: Hide and Seek, the title hammering home the point. "We all have a mix of good and bad," Rankin told us at a lunch at the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh. "As P.D. James says, we're all capable of murder."

Some other tidbits from Rankin:

"There are two things I like about being an author: You are omniscient and omnipotent. You have the power of life and death over your characters. At the same time, as well as being godlike, you are are still playing pretend."

Rankin calls himself an "accidental crime writer," not having meant to write a crime novel when he first started, although he wrote in his notes for that first book that "the hero may be a cop." Now, he loves writing in this form: "I love the sense of pace, a strong pacing narrative. I love the games you can play with the reader, that questions are answered. You get a comfort from that which you don't get from real life."

Although readers like to think Rankin is like Rebus, "Rebus is not at all like me," Rankin says. "I'm a wishy-washy liberal. Every book is an internal argument between us [himself and Rebus]....He's horrible Mr. Hyde so I can be nice Dr. Jekyll."

What is said to be the final Rebus novel was published this week in the U.K.: Exit Music, which immediately climbed to No. 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list. Scottish detectives must retire by the age of 60, and Rebus has reached this age in the books. However, cold case detectives can be older, and Rankin left the possibility open of someday returning to either Rebus or Siobhan (Rebus' younger female partner). Saying he had several other projects in the work, Rankin added that "it may be a couple of years before I can go back to [Rebus] with a blank slate, and see if I can do anything with Rebus of Siobhan."

So who knows -- we may not have seen the last of Rebus.

No comments: