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Creating Rebus

Edinburgh’s Favourite Detective

The Birth of Rebus

John Rebus seemed to spring fully formed from young English literature graduate Ian Rankin. The book’s title Knots & Crosses came first, with the protagonist’s name coming out of that ‘picture puzzle’ of knotted rope and matchstick crosses of the title. Oxford had ‘Morse’ – a code, so Edinburgh would have ‘Rebus’ – a puzzle.  The flawed but humane detective we first meet when he’s aged 40 is pretty much the character we see in Exit Music when he’s approaching 60, but with a bit more flesh on the bones – both literally and metaphorically – and he’s also a little more disillusioned, fighting a few more demons, and not quoting quite so much Walt Whitman or Dostoevsky.

Listen to Ian Rankin talking about how the idea for Rebus came about »


 
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