A Mad Dash to Houston to see Ian Rankin

22nd March 2011

This afternoon, I let my late class go a bit early, ran home for my camera, and made the 1.5 hour trek to Murder by the Book to see Ian Rankin.

I’ve mentioned Ian Rankin in passing before, but I’ve never reviewed any of his books because I read them all in my pre-blogging days. Let me tell you a little about my experiences with Rankin:

At 25, after putting myself through undergrad and then grad school, I was totally burnt out. I had completed my thesis which, though I was and am quite proud of, was an exhausting process. When I graduated, I wanted no more to do with reading or theory or feminist theory or academic writing. And then someone put an Inspector Rebus novel in my hands. To be honest, I cannot remember if it was given to me or if I picked it up. But, it was a match made in heaven. Over the course of that summer, I read every single Rebus novel out there and was thirsting for more. In fact, I might have haunted Rankin’s website for a while trying to figure out when the last Rebus book would be released.

Who is Rebus? Rebus is a troubled detective. He leaves the SAS after a nervous breakdown and serves as a detective for Lothian & Borders station. Pitted against Edinburgh’s underbelly, what he calls “a crime scene waiting to happen,” Rebus tests the boundaries of right and wrong, often having to use less-than-ethical methods to get to the bottom of a case. He’s ruthless in his desire for truth and justice, especially when a case involves Big “Ger” Cafferty, a crime leader Rebus can never seem to get the better of. Rebus retires in Exit Music, and I have to say, I was devastated. I had grown to love Rebus and his partner Siobhan and loved inhabiting their world for a little while.

So when Rankin began writing other books, I hopped on the bandwagon with trepidation, but so far his standalones have been engaging. This month his new book The Complaints is out.

As Rankin said tonight, Malcolm Fox, his new protagonist is just about as opposite Rebus as possible. Fox is by the book, working in the American equivalent of Internal Affairs. He’s the type that might investigate Rebus. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m excited. Rankin is already working on a sequel and read a bit from it tonight. Good stuff.

What excited me even more? One of the questions from the audience asked if Rankin missed Rebus (there were some die-hard Rebus fans like me out there). Rankin responded that he doesn’t really miss him because he didn’t kill him off and senses “[Rebus and Siobhan] have not left the building.” He kept Rebus in real time, so Rebus had to retire when he reached a certain age. He told a funny story that someone went to Parliament requesting the retirement age change so Rankin could keep Rebus around. There’s another regulation, though, stating Rebus could come back in a review capacity, looking through cold case files, which to be honest, sounds right up his alley.

All in all, it was a great evening. Rankin, beer in hand, talked about a little of everything and was patient and talkative during the signing. I told him the above story about my reading everything after completing my thesis. He told me he was actually supposed to be writing a thesis on Muriel Spark when he wrote the first Rebus novel and said she probably would have encouraged him to stick with the fiction anyway. The entire ride home I listened to Depeche Mode and thought maybe, just maybe, I’ve got a story that hasn’t left the building yet…

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. I am a total anxious freak around new people – especially favorite authors of favorite series, so I chickened out on the whole me and Ian Rankin pic. I know, I know. Dork.

P.P.S. If you live in or around Houston, make sure you check out the Murder by the Books website for signing info. Jacqueline Winspear will be there Wednesday, but I can’t justify another trek, particularly as I am hoping to head back over Saturday to watch Jane Eyre.

P.P.P.S. I grabbed a Rebus novel The Black Book and had it signed for one of you lovely readers. Read the instructions below and enter. I just had to share Rebus with the world. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hi Jenn – I saw your retweet from the man himself. He came to Vancouver BC in 2009 when The Complaints has just been published in Canada – a real gent in person, very kind and gracious with his time. Its a great book, for as Rebus fades away for a while, Fox takes the baton…..I like the clean design of your blog! If you have time please feel free to take a glance at my humble affair! cheers! Des

    • pickygirl

      From the man himself. That is so so cool. I woke up to your comment this morning and was so excited. I’ll be ok with Rebus fading away as long as there’s a good one to replace him. I’ll definitely check out your digs.

  • Dan

    I finished The Complaints Saturday night before I went to MBTB to see Rankin (where I think I may’ve also seen you!). I liked it. I don’t find Fox as sturm & drang a character as Rebus, and I think part of that may derive from Fox’s novelty. All of his baggage is yet to be developed, so this book felt somewhat like Rankin was creating a canvas to fill in. I think the Internal Affairs set up works well, and I’m looking forward to see how he develops the characters introduced here.

    Because of the IA device, he does hide the ball a bit as to who the “good guys” are, much like another book I read recently, Midnight Choir by Gene Kerrigan. Unlike Kerrigan, Rankin’s protagonist/narrator feels like a safe place. Even though he’s new, you still want to root for Fox, and feel okay doing so.

    As far as Rankin himself is concerned, he’s a very nice guy. I tweeted a message last week that I was about to start the book, and warned people not to disturb me. Five minutes later, Rankin DM’ed me to say that he had received and would abide by the warning. Very cool guy.

    • pickygirl

      Dan – Thanks for the excellent preview. I’m ok with him creating and building Fox as opposed to him jumping on the page fully formed, as he said Rebus did. I, too, like the IA aspect.

      He was very nice. I’ve met several authors, and some are reserved and shy (who wouldn’t be in that setting?), others a bit standoffish, and still others a bit… how shall we say, put upon?, and Rankin was none of the above. It was a great event, and I’m glad I got to make it.

  • Robert_10_4

    I am just here to follow your call on twitter and give my opinion about what I think, is the best Rebus book. (If my English is good enough for that – Do not mind mistakes in grammar or spelling, I am from overseas …)
    I think “Mortal Causes” is the best Rebus book, but they are all really exciting and I read them all in two days. I do not know, why “Mortal Causes” comes to my mind first, but I think it is because I am interested in history and the place where the story takes place, Mary King’s Close, is so fascinating…
    Another question is, what is the worst Rebus book? Firstly, there are no bad Rebus books, in my opinion. But while reading “The Naming of the Dead” my first impression, while reading the first 100 to 150 pages, was, that Rankin might have lost it … Normally, I “feel” (you know what I mean) Rebus right from the start of the book… That happened not with this book. But I was happy when it finally happened after 100 to 150 pages of the book. Than I had my old “Rebus-feelings” back. Thats why this book goes down as the worst Rebus for me. Does not mean, that it is not a great book. As I said before!

    • pickygirl

      It happens – particularly when, for whatever reason, you feel a disconnect from the protagonist you know and love. It’s been a couple years since I read all of them (maybe I need to reread), but I remember The Black Book (the giveaway book) as being one of my favorites, but as you said – give me a Rebus novel, and I’m happy.

      So glad you followed my Twitter directive and am happy you put in your thoughts.

  • pickygirl

    Oh you kind commenters – no one pointed out my hideous mistake: “Giveway” instead of “Giveaway” in huge letters. Too afraid I’ll lose your info to change it. Please forgive this English teacher: I wrote the post after midnight.

  • Robert_10_4

    It is cool to talk about books you love, with peoble who read them too and love them. My friends do not read Ian Rankin and don’t know Rebus. That is a pitty but I can not force anyone to read him. Just my mother tried two books. But she is not as excited as I am. She likes the lines about music, cause Rebus is listening to all the music my mom loves. And he drinks the whiskey, that my dad likes. But dads bottles last a little longer than Johns do … ๐Ÿ™‚ 2 month ago, my parents tried a whiskey because of one of the two Rebus books, that my mom read, that was sweet…

    The “Giveway” Mistake, I think no one will take notice… If there is a line that says : Giveway the black book of Ian Rankin, the brain automatically reads “Giveaway” !!!
    have a nice day, it is nearly midnight in Germany…

  • I loved reading about your total immersion in all things Rebus. Thanks for sharing this. I thought I was one of the few who did this sort of thing. I’ve never read Ian Rankin but I had one of his books here in the house somewhere and when I read your post I went looking for it, but of course, I can’t find it. One more author I have to familiarize myself with. The list is neverending!

    I’ve done the total immersion thing a few times myself.
    I most especially remember my Dick Francis binge of binges and my Robert Crais marathon. A lovely way to get to know an author’s work!

    • pickygirl

      Yvette – you are not alone. Total immersion worked well for me. I’m so glad the post made you want to go pick the book up. Based on what you mention, I think you’ll enjoy Rebus.

      I find myself drawn to the Scottish and Irish detective novels because unlike the Americans, they rely less on guns and violence and more on character and plot. I love them!

  • I love that you did this. If I’d been there, I would have taken your camera out of your hands, pushed you up next to him and snapped a photo. Then you could blame it on me and not have to be embarrassed. (For the record, I’m not good around strangers, either.)

    Is it horrible to say I’ve never read a Rebus novel? I really, really want to. I did read Rankin’s interesting essay in THE LINEUP about how he came to create Rebus. It seems like this book would be a good place to start since it’s one of your faves.

    • pickygirl

      That’s why we have blogs. For goodness sake, DON’T make me talk to people!!

      Elyse – I am not above begging. You are one of my mystery pals; you have to read and love Rebus. I demand it.

  • I’ve heard of Rankin before but this is the first time I’ve, you know, really READ about him. I’ve been on kind of a mystery/suspense kick lately but not having read a lot of mysteries since my Nancy Drew days I’ve been wondering where to go after i finish w/ lehane and elizabeth george. I think you’ve answered my question for me…Rankin, definitely.

    • pickygirl

      Yea! A convert. I was a huge Nancy Drew/Trixie Belden fan when I was young. I hope you enjoy Inspector Rebus as much as I do. The books are really fantastic. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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