At a function in Christchurch last night, Ian Rankin said: "I didn't know anything about the police so I went to the police station and told them I'm writing a book.
"I gave them the plot, not realising they were investigating a crime that was almost identical.
"They said, 'Why don't we pretend you're a suspect?' After 1½ hours they let me go. I was the only suspect in a missing person case that ended up with seven victims."
The real killer was caught in a coincidence - a stone caught in a lawnmower - that Rankin said would have been rejected as outlandish if he had written it in a book.
However, Rankin also warned that, like his father, he was"for ever telling lies ... you have to take me with a pinch of salt".
Twenty years on, after the original books barely sold enough to keep him on contract, Rankin has now sold eight million books in 31 languages.
Unlike Rankin, his creation Rebus now faces retirement.
"I don't get a rest," Rankin explained. "I'm writing a libretto for a 15-minute opera which is set in Italy and begins and ends with a bloodbath."
- The Press
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