John Rebus Has Not Left the Building: The Ian Rankin Interview


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It was a crap morning.  Cold rain and fog.  The roads and sidewalks were slick with leaves and puddles.  Cars haunted side streets at half speed, their drivers wiping at the windows from within, bleary eyes squinting out.

The Complaints HB CS1 rev.inddIt was unequivocal inclemency of the highest order. The natural world’s embodiment of the emotional turmoil at the core of your average Mogwai tune.

It could have been an autumn morning in any bitter and inhospitable city in the world.  Could have been Bogata, Edinburgh, Jakarta or Vladivostok.

As luck would have it the drab and impenetrable city in question was Vancouver and I would have to go out into it if I wanted to get this interview with Ian Rankin.

I’d be lying if I said that the idea didn’t briefly cross my mind.

After the requisite caffeine injections and foggy mutterings I made it to the CJSF station HQ and let myself into the empty confines.  Peace and quiet and warmth.  And time to gather my energies before making the call to Toronto where Mr Rankin was participating in IFOA XXX and their special showcasing of Scottish writers and Canadian writers of Scottish descent.

No problem.  Smooth sailing from here.  Should be.Dark Entries

I got the mixing board all warmed, lit up and functional.  The digital patch connecting the old touch tone phone to the outside world checked out but the computer with the mixing program was locked by a password that I did not have.  It was 730 in the morning and the only numbers that I had were for people who happened to be out of town.

It was grim but eventually I hacked into the machine, made the call to Ian’s hotel room and got the interview up on the rails.

I’d forgotten my notes in the other room during my frenzy to figure out how I was going to crack the password into the computer and now I was improvising wildly to Mr Rankin as we began to talk about the similarities between Scotland and Canada and their shared proximity to proverbial cultural elephants to their geographic south.

From there we talked about James Kelman and boy wizards, Margaret Atwood, the Proclaimers, Mogwai and Jackie Leven, shopping for vinyl records, travelling by train across Canada, return visits to the toy shop on Granville Island, John Rebus, Malcom Fox, reality gameshows broadcast in hell and despairing wives.

An excellent time had by all and topped off by a blistering track from the new Mogwai album, Hawk is Howling.

Many thanks to Ian Rankin and the good people at Orion Books/McArthur Canada and Random House/DC/Vertigo for making it happen.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.

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