My Festival: Ian Rankin, Author

The Scotsman
24 August 2010
You’ve been reviewing the festivals for the BBC this year. How is the life of a reviewer going?
It’s been absolutely hectic. Having been on holiday for two weeks I found myself back in Edinburgh and that day running about like a blue-arsed fly.

That said, I like reviewing, because other people do all the hard work. They decide what you should be going to, and quite often you’re pleasantly surprised. It does take its toll, though; I’m going to have to work on disengaging my critical faculties next week, when I’m back to seeing shows for pleasure.
Have you been sent to anything you wouldn’t have thought about going to, that you loved?
I’m glad I was sent to see Daniel Kitson’s one-man show (It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later, at the Traverse), which I probably would have skipped by in the programme. It’s an incredibly involving, affecting tale of two people, and apart from anything else, it’s a phenomenal act of memory. I couldn’t memorise half a page of one of my books, so to keep the whole of something the length of a novella in your head requires genius.

If someone had just one day to HAVE a festival experience, how would you recommend they spend it?
The first thing you want to hope for is that you get decent weather, and if you get decent weather then just take a walk up and down the High Street bit of the Royal Mile. I remember last year I was walking by a tiny venue up near the castle, and ended up in a phenomenal student production of Antigone. I’d just taken a punt on it, having seen a sandwich board outside and having happened to have an hour free. The best thing to do is not to plan; if you’ve only got one day, just take a walk and see where it gets you.

Have you been taking in much at the Book Festival?
I’ve been at the Book Festival every day. I was on stage interviewing the American crime writer Reggie Nadelson, I’ve been interviewed myself by Lin Anderson, and I’ll be presenting the James Tait Black Prize as well as interviewing Antonia Fraser about her life with Harold Pinter, and my solo event. I’ve also been in the audience to see Alasdair Gray being his wonderful, eccentric self, and I’ve got tickets for the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Alan Moore, who wrote Watchmen, and American chef and TV presenter Anthony Bourdain. I like to mix it up.

How does the atmosphere at the Book Festival compare WITH the other festivals?
Well, the good news this year is that it’s been sunny, and that’s so good for the Book Festival. Trying to conduct an event with rain drumming on your tent is always miserable. Instead, people have sat outside, reading, chatting, eating ice-cream, and there have been loads of kids running around. It’s been great.

You’ve recently published an iPhone App, Ian Rankin’s Guide To Edinburgh
It’s basically audio and video clips of me in various locations across the city. There’s the side of the city that people always associate with Edinburgh: you know, the castle, the Royal Mile. I wanted to say to tourists: look, if you just walk ten or 15 minutes off the beaten track, you’ll end up with a completely different side of the city, and Edinburgh is a great place to explore on foot.

What sort of places are on there?

Well, you’ve got me, standing maybe at the top of The Mound saying things like “if you read the story on the side of Deacon Brodie’s pub, you’ll learn the story behind Jekyll and Hyde.” I also encourage people to go for a quiet walk down the Water of Leith, and I do point out where some of the murders in my books happened; where Rebus likes to go for a pint.

So the Oxford Bar features fairly heavily?
I would think there would be a bit of filming outside the Oxford Bar, yes. Not inside. The locals don’t like that – makes them too easily identifiable.

What’s it been like turning 50?
It was easy, to be honest. Turning 40 I remember as being quite hard; I spent the last day of being 39 weeping into a beer, wondering where the time had gone, but 50 was brilliant. I had a big party at the Central Library. I went to see Rick Wakeman playing and I took loads of friends for a meal. I basically had a week-long birthday. I suggest everyone does that.

Ian Rankin’s Guide To Edinburgh is available for free download from the iTunes App Store. Ian Rankin interviews Antonia Fraser on 30 August at 3pm. The event is sold out

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