Celebrate the twentieth
anniversary of Ian Rankin's first American publication withStanding in Another Man's Grave, featuring the triumphant return of
John Rebus, and a riveting story of sin, redemption, and revenge.
Inspector John Rebus retired in 2007 because I had placed myself in a
Early on in the series, I had
decided that Rebus should live in real-time, or a fair approximation of
it. This would allow me to explore the
evolving nature of the city of Edinburgh and Scottish (and British) society
without my central character appearing as an anomaly, never ageing, never
It was an ex-cop friend of mine who eventually
alerted me to the fact that detectives in Scotland in the real world had a
mandatory retirement age of sixty. I did
the sums. We first met Rebus in 1987, by
which time he was forty. Therefore Exit
Music, published in 2007, would have to be his ‘last bow’. It wasn’t that I was tired of Rebus or had
nothing new to say about him--quite the opposite. There was information he was holding back
from me, facets of his personality still left to explore. And yet he had to retire. Verisimilitude demanded it.
I pondered the consequences of
this. I could go back in time and write
about the man in his thirties and forties.
Or he could become a private eye.
Neither, however, really appealed, just as retirement did not appeal to
Rebus himself. I then learned that there
was a small unit in Edinburgh comprised of three retired detectives and one
serving officer. This unit looked into
unsolved cases from years past. It was
the perfect job for Rebus, and I knew that’s where his future lay.
Meantime, I had become interested in
another branch of policing--Internal Affairs. These were the cops who investigated other
cops, and they were almost universally feared and disliked. They operated as spies, setting up
surveillance operations which could last for weeks or months. They were cautious and meticulous, worked
well as a team, and could never cross the line or break the rules. In other words: the antithesis of Rebus. So I invented Inspector Malcolm Fox and named
his first adventure after the colloquial name for Internal Affairs--The
I came to like Fox a lot, and
decided to spend more time with him, exploring his psychology and
character. So I wrote him into a second
novel, The Impossible Dead. So far so
good, but wheels elsewhere were turning.
The retirement age for detectives in Scotland was in the process of
being raised. Would Rebus--still busy investigating those long-cold cases--be
tempted to reapply for CID? If he did,
would The Complaints think him a fit applicant?
And think of all those shortcuts Rebus had taken in his career--would
they be lying there, ready to trap him, should someone like Malcolm Fox go
looking for them?
Moreover, bringing Rebus back would
allow me to show Fox from another perspective--not as hero but almost as
villain, his rectitude and stiff moral parameters blocking the maverick Rebus
at every turn.
Readers these past few years have
been ready with questions for me. Much
as they like Fox and his crew, they ask after Rebus, and his colleague Siobhan
Clarke, and his nemesis Cafferty. I had considered
writing a novel with either Clarke or Cafferty as the main character, but
instead was drawn towards Rebus, possibly because the timing was perfect. Rebus was first seen in Knots and Crosses,
published in 1987, meaning 2012 is his twenty-fifth anniversary. Everything was falling into place.
All I needed was a plot--and
I already had one of those. I wanted to
look at what happens when someone vanishes from the world. Can families and friends ever forget, or at
least manage to get on with the rest of their lives? At what point do the authorities become
interested, and then lose interest? I
began forging a story, bringing in other elements--our
propensity for myth-making; the way a major road can have a life beyond that
experienced by those who travel along it.
A shape began to emerge and I gave it a name--Standing in Another Man's Grave.
A good friend of mine, a musician
called Jackie Leven, had died unexpectedly and far too young. We had played together, made an album
together. I was listening to a song of
his one day and realised I was mishearing the lyric. While Jackie sang of ‘standing in another
man’s rain’ I was hearing the word ‘grave’.
So it was that Jackie gifted me both the book’s title and its opening
scene. As thanks, the book is dedicated
to him, and his lyrics open each section.
We got to know one another because he was a fan of my books, just as I
admired his music. Cheers, Jackie. You helped me breathe life back into John