Rankin reveals 'seat of pants' approach

17:52, Nov 13 2012
Ian Rankin
SPILLING THE BEANS: Ian Rankin ponders a question at The Dominion Post Write Stuff event.

Britain's best-selling crime writer has no idea how the plot of his books will pan out when he sits down to write.

"After 65 pages I have no idea where I am going," Ian Rankin told a crowd of about 300 at a Dominion Post Write Stuff event in Wellington last night.

"I fly by the seat of my pants . . . When I first wrote about Rebus, he was shot and killed at the end of the first draft. I brought him back to life in the second draft."

Edinburgh-based Rankin, 52, is best known for his Inspector John Rebus series, which regularly top the Sunday Times bestseller lists.

The books have also been converted into a TV series, which has starred both John Hannah and Ken Stott as Rebus.

After retiring Rebus five years ago, Rankin decided to bring him back last year and the result is Standing in Another Man's Grave. Rebus first appeared in Knots and Crosses 25 years ago.


Rankin told last night's audience at the Amora Hotel that the preliminary notes for his books invariably covered such things as a killing, a crime scene, an investigation and a motive for why the victim was killed.

He had no ambition to be a crime writer. When he began writing, he thought his books would be viewed as mainstream and found it disconcerting to see early Rebus works sold in the crime section of bookshops.

But fellow Scottish author Allan Massie, his mentor when he was writer in residence at Edinburgh University, assured him there was nothing wrong with the genre.

The Dominion Post