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If the train ride from London to Edinburgh was any sign of what was to come, I was promised an energetic, ebullient atmosphere. Every passenger on my train buzzed. Every seat was reserved, and all tickets read Kings Cross to Edinburgh.
I arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon and the festivals that overrun the city centre, as my train suggested, enlivened the city. After settling into my temporary Edinburgh flat (how quickly we can call a place home), I set off towards the International Book Festival. My first show was Ian Rankin’s—Scotland’s much-heralded crime fiction writer.
Rankin’s discussion was the perfect start to my time in Edinburgh. He was friendly, relaxed, even comedic (he made a Darth Vader joke early on and I was hooked)—a hit with the audience and with me. The discussion (led by Alan Morrison of the Herald Times) took us through Ian’s career, focusing on his two latest novels, Standing in Another Man’s Grave and Saints of the Shadow Bible; the latter is due out in November. Ian happily divulged his thought processes behind each book and character, telling the audience about his trips through Scotland and recounting several police anecdotes. He talked about his characters (mainly Inspector John Rebus, Rankin’s inspector from another time, a man displaced in the modern world surrounding him) like he was talking to one friend about another; he was perfectly critical of their dispositions, in the loving way one acknowledges the flaws of a close friend. You can tell, as he’s talking, how much he respects his characters, that he lets them grow and develop in their own right. He invited the audience, the reader, to see the good and evil in all of his characters—a certain prelude to his newest novel, which has a cover that reads: “Rebus: Saint or Sinner?”
In all, I found his enthusiasm and openness about both his writing and research process and about his characters genuine and intriguing. I liked that he felt at ease; even dropped a few swear words in. He’s essentially the kind of guy you want writing Scotland’s crime fiction because you can see how much he cares about the country, the city that he’s dedicated his life and career to. He brought his stories alive, made me want to read more of his work, and was a pleasure to listen to. I can’t really ask for more than that.
Tomorrow will be my first full day in Edinburgh. I’ll be interviewing Susan Greenfield, Amy Sackville and Evie Wyld, and seeing many more shows and events. Be sure to join Litro so that you can hear what the authors have to say!