Q & A with Ian Rankin

Q & A with prize-winning Scottish author Ian Rankin

Writing professionally since the 1980s, there’s not much we don’t already know about Ian Rankin or his writing. His best-selling Inspector Rebus novels are published in 22 different languages across the globe and more recently he’s started writing about a new kind of crime-fighter in DI Malcolm Fox of The Complaints (Internal Affairs).

You can find all you need to know about Ian on his Official website: biography, the books that inspired him, his writing life and love of music – you can even follow a map to ramble around Edinburgh in Rebus’s footsteps.

There’s a nice Q&A on Waterstone’s author page too:  where we find out that Ian’s favourite word is ‘lacrosse’…

… so, it’s almost impossible to find out something we don’t already know.

Or is it?

I caught up with Ian between events on the book-launch tour for The Impossible Dead.

J:-      The Impossible Dead is set in contemporary Scotland with much of the plot looking back to the social and political scene of the 1980s, the same time that you published your first novel, The Flood. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

IR:-    Don’t drink so much.  A lot of blank spaces back then where memories should be.  Maybe that’s why I couldn’t remember all the domestic Scottish terrorism that was going on.  A lot of the period 1980-85 seems to have passed me by.


J:-       Who would you invite to your Come Dine with Me Dinner and what would you serve them?

IR :-   I watch that show.  I’m not a great cook but I do have a few ‘bankers’.  Maybe a rich beef and wine stew.  Or a chilli con carne.  Plenty of good white and red wine.  To start: smoked salmon.  Cheese and oatcakes for afters.  Around the table would be arranged Robert Louis Stevenson (so I can ask him about the first draft of Jekyll and Hyde – the one he’s supposed to have thrown on the fire), Frank Zappa (he might even play a few licks – I never got to see him in concert), and Billie Holiday.       


J:-        Your house is on fire! Your family and record collection are safe but you only have time to save one book – what is it?

 IR:-    My 1st edition hardback of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. My wife bought it for me when I was doing my PhD on Spark.  Many years later, I met the lady herself and she signed it for me.  (At the risk of getting a hand singed, I might also grab my signed and dedicated copy of Keith Richards’ Life in passing…)


J:-      The Impossible Dead is set outside of Edinburgh and nicely opens up the possibility of taking the Malcolm Fox series across Scotland. You’ve visited bookshops and book festivals in all the major Scottish towns and I wonder, which Scottish town have you always wanted to visit but haven’t yet found the time?

IR:-    I’ve visited most of them, at one time or another.  But I’ve never been to the Outer Hebrides… so maybe Stornoway.  Also, I visited Falkland once (when I was in primary school) and I keep meaning to go back.  Johnny Cash claimed he had roots there, you know.


J:-        I love the new covers! The whole back catalogue has been rebranded. How much input did you have on the final result?

IR:-     I once tried designing my own book jacket  –  it was for the original hardback of Strip Jack.  Orion went along with it and it was terrible (basically a Lion Rampant flying from the Houses of Parliament).  I’m useless at that kind of thing, so I usually go along with the opinion of people who are paid to come up with the right visual treatment.  It is frustrating that if you get a really great look, it only stands out from the crowd for a year or two, because people start to copy aspects of it.  Orion showed me various possible jacket looks, and we did discuss it a little.  I’m happy with the outcome.

J:-       If you were paper what would you fold yourself into?

IR:-    I’d fold the paper in half, then in half again, and cut the edges to make an eight-page blank book, ready to be filled with cartoons, drawings, and lines of text.


The Impossible Dead (Orion) is published on 13th October

2 thoughts on “Q & A with Ian Rankin

    1. You’re in for a treat if you liked The Complaints. Tense, nervy and Fife-based to add to the mix- deft scene-setting. Posting a review of The Impossible Dead on Thursday.

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