I first met Ian Rankin in 2006 on his Chicago tour stop. I’d been a fan of his John Rebus detective series a short while, as much for the familiar Edinburgh setting as the writing.
I fell all over myself talking to Rankin, stuttering and turning red. His accent and rugged good looks made my knees shake. Literally. It was embarrassing as hell. By that point I’d interviewed a U.S. Poet Laureate and string of high profile writers, but you’d never have known from my (total lack of) mad interpersonal skills. I managed to blurt out a request for him to inscribe, “You complete me” on the title page. He smiled and complied, possibly assuming English wasn’t my first language. Or that my handler was hanging back watching, waiting to change my drool bib and take me home.
Little did I realize dude gets that ALL the time. I should have known. You mean I’m not the only woman easily swayed by a Scot? I dinnae ken!
Discussing his fan base with him years later, he said he’s been asked to sign women’s necks, cleavage and hotel room keys. Also an arm, for a woman who planned to have it permanently inked. The only rule is no inappropriate touch. And no, I don’t know that from personal experience.
THE CHEEK OF YOU.
Ian Rankin values his fans; he won’t abide hearing them referred to as “stalkers”. No matter they follow him to his favorite pub in Edinburgh, using the address to
send mail directed to him. He’s fine with that, and I don’t blame him. You want to send me gifts? It can be arranged.
But I’d love to be a fly on the wall when he opens them. I can only imagine.
Since our first meeting I’ve interviewed him briefly by email on behalf of the library I worked for, sent him a t-shirt he took a picture of himself wearing (though it was too small and he had to shoehorn himself into it), a goofy beer glass, and a Moleskine notebook and pen he promised he’d make use of for his next book. We’ve been in regular Twitter contact ever since.
He’s a genuinely good soul.
This past Tuesday evening I had tickets for an event with Ian Rankin “and guests”: a police pathologist and Rankin’s “Dad band,” Best Picture. Held at Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, it was well attended, if not packed. Frequent local events celebrating the release of his latest In a House of Lies have spread the wealth as far as the crowds go. And thank goodness for that. It was hotter than hell from the body heat. The crush of the signing line gave me anxious moments.
It was standard interview fare: the 31-year history of the Rebus series, recurring characters and how they’ve grown and progressed, a few continuity gaffes he’s committed, stories of his early days and how he came to be a crime writer. There’d be nothing new to anyone who’s heard him speak before. He was witty and charming, natch, poking fun at himself in his genuinely down to earth way.
Contributions from the police pathologist presented real crime in Edinburgh, unsurprisingly nowhere near Rankin’s fictional body count. Whereas Ian admitted he’s rubbish at figuring out crimes, the pathologist said he’s generally able to tell cause of death from newspaper articles and pictures. I suppose that’s the difference between the real and fictional worlds.
The real treat, though, was the performance of Rankin’s band. Of all the author events I’ve attended, this was the most singular. And though I took video of two songs, I don’t have the copyright to embed them. Instead, here’s his record label’s official video of their first single, “Isabelle”:
A truly great evening, crowd anxiety aside. One of these days I’ll catch him down at the Oxford Bar, where I can buy him a pint while I stutter and fall all over myself all over again.