The scene was set for Rankin’s first of two main appearances at this year’s book festival, as first the Rolling Stones followed by John Martyn’s Solid Air, accompanied his arrival in a packed RBS Main Tent.
He explained that as well as the song being key to his Desert Island Discs choice some years ago, the song actually meant much more to him in that it was always the first song he played—on vinyl—when he moved into a new house.
As far as his most famous literary creation goes, his music tastes used to differ to that of Inspector Rebus. “Rebus used to be a jazz fan,” said Rankin, “until John Harvey came along. I soon realised that by making Rebus a fan of what I liked, I could research it further and build a music collection that was tax deductible,” he joked.
Rankin wrote his new novel, The Impossible Dead, in the first two months of this year but it won’t see publication until October 13th. “All I have is this dust jacket,” he said, holding one up. “The title wasn’t my first choice but the publisher’s liked it.”
Talking a bit more about his writing process, he explained that he is a firm news junkie: “I read several newspapers a day and always have the news on, and it’s from this that stories just keep leaping out at me.” With that, he briefly held up a newspaper cutting that he said had provided the inspiration for the new book, but later refused to divulge any more about what the book was about. “It’s about jugglers going mad in Belarus,” he joked.
Rankin’s latest novel was written in the public spotlight through Twitter in January and February. His followers were able to accompany him on the highs and lows as the novel developed, and he is believed to be the first top author to open the door in such a way. “As well as it being a kind of diary,” he explained, “it also highlighted to me that my life is actually quite mundane—it’s not all glamour like people are inclined to think—but in my head it’s a fairground ride.”
He continued: “I don’t see the point in being a full time writer if you have to spend your whole time writing,” referring to the amount of procrastinating that became visible through the Twittersphere.
Turning his attention to the greater body of his work, Rankin admitted to still getting a buzz from opening the jiffy bag to be able to hold the first physical copy of any novel he has written. When asked by Richard Havers what he does then he replied: “I usually go to the pub.”
And of his success as a crime writer, Rankin also admitted that he wishes his parents had lived to see past the first few published books, and to have enjoyed his success. “It would have been good to show them that it is possible to make a career from making stuff up.”