Ian Rankin's detective is back at work

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 20, 2014 - 3:11 PM

Ian Rankin takes his famous detective out of retirement, and brings himself to Once Upon a Crime on Saturday.

Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin

 Some people just can’t stay retired, even if they’re not real.

Take John Rebus, an Edinburgh detective created by Scotland’s Ian Rankin. Despite winning many of the big awards in crime fiction, Rankin retired his character in 2009, only to find fans clamoring for more Rebus.

Rankin has relented with “Saints of the Shadow Bible” (Little, Brown, $26), although Rebus returns with a demotion — and an attitude. Critics approve of the decision. As Rebus is likened in the book to “one of those chess wizards, the ones who play a dozen boards at the same time,” so the Guardian described Rankin “as he weaves his dual plots into an ever more tangled maze, and then smoothly, oh so satisfactorily, irons them out again.”

Rankin will appear at Once Upon a Crime bookstore, 604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis, for a reading and book-signing at 7 p.m. Saturday.

We talked with Rankin about his imaginary staff canteen, why he likes giving readings in penitentiaries and what his main character has done for him.


Q. Describe your writing room.

A. It’s one of the bedrooms in my three-story Victorian-era house in Edinburgh. There’s a writing desk, computer, sofa and hi-fi system. Oh, and some clutter — lots of CDs and vinyl LPs plus folders, piles of books, magazines, newspapers. Large windows. I like it very much.


Q. What is your writing strategy — do you have rituals that you maintain?

A. Well, panic plays a part. I usually write a new book every year, which means no time for dawdling. When I know I have a deadline, the adrenaline kicks in. I don’t do a huge amount of pre-plotting. I have a theme, and a rough plot that may allow me to explore that theme. Then I start writing. Most of the research is done between the first draft and the second, because by then I know where the gaps are and what those gaps may be.


Q. How do you get past writers’ block (or the distraction of the Internet)?

A. I don’t have much time for writers’ block! If I hit a problem, I discuss it with my wife. She often offers answers. Or I go for a walk. The Internet is a distraction, of course, but I do love Twitter. Writing is a solitary occupation, and when I take a break and check Twitter it’s as though I’ve entered the staff canteen — and the canteen is full of clever, funny people who are talking about all the latest news.


Q. Do you have a favorite book from childhood?

A. My favorite book from childhood is probably “Green Eggs and Ham.” Thing is, it’s not from my childhood. For whatever reason, Dr. Seuss passed me by — until I became a dad. I used to read “Green Eggs” to my son Jack every night when he was very young. I loved it and can still, 20 years on, recite chunks of it.


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