It’s been a hell of a year. Doubtless Rebus would approve of most of it - especially the amount of alcohol consumed in his honour. All those 20th anniversary parties and ceilidhs and brewery visits and whisky-tastings. It bordered on the surreal to be able to walk into a pub any day in August and order a pint of Rebus Ale (“found behind bars”). Slightly surreal, too, to have not one but TWO exhibitions dedicated to the old man. The larger of these - at Edinburgh’s National Library of Scotland - is still running, but only until mid-January. Not that it’s been all fun and games. I began the year by writing a serial for the New York Times, followed by Exit Music. I also turned ‘political hack’ courtesy of The Times and covered May’s Scottish elections, interviewing the likes of Tony Blair and Alex Salmond. Then there was the opera libretto, the two BBC TV documentaries (one celebrating 20 years of Rebus, the other the roots of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). And did you happen to catch ‘Reichenbach Falls’, a one-off BBC drama about a detective who starts to realise he’s a character in a long-running series of novels? I co-wrote that with an old friend from university, James Mavor. We enjoyed it so much, we’re trying out other ideas…
I’ve also been in the studio, hoping my vocal contributions to the next St Jude’s Infirmary album can be kept low in the mix. Really low in the mix. My old pal Jack Vettriano was there, too. He’s got an incredible voice, all coal-dust and Capstans, so maybe he’ll drown out my warblings.
I spent a chunk of April on tour in the USA, and over the course of the year also visited Segovia, Toronto, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Australia and New Zealand. As I type this, I’m readying for a bite-size tour of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Then there was the mud-bath that was Hay-on-Wye (May) and the glorious Edinburgh Book Festival (August), where I did onstage interviews with Ruth Rendell, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian McEwan. I also participated in a panel discussion on the graphic novel (known in my day as the comic book). I was taking notes along the way, in preparation for trying my hand at a one-off addition to the DC Comics series ‘John Constantine: Hellblazer’. (I’m about halfway through - harder than it looks, believe me!)
September’s UK tour was a hoot. I had my very own travelling backdrop - a huge blow-up photo of the Oxford Bar’s gantry, complete with a section of wooden bar and my very own bar-stool. The stool is rather special, crafted from an empty barrel of 20-year old Highland Park. The barrel’s contents has now been decanted into around 140 specially labelled bottles of malt, available to win on the odd occasion at various charity events - watch this space. At most locations on the tour, the audience were awarded a nip of Highland Park (the 12-year old), plus the chance to win a bottle of the special stuff. But there was sadness, too, since Exit Music represents Rebus’s swansong, in that he has hit the age of sixty… the age at which a Detective Inspector in Scotland is forced to retire. Plenty of questions were asked, and scenarios suggested which would keep Rebus going. I’ve not made my mind up yet, and need to finish all the other projects hanging over me before I can contemplate the future of Rebus, Siobhan and Cafferty…
So you’ll just have to wait and see. But it was heartening to see Exit Music hit the number one slot not only in the UK but also in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Maybe it just means people are delighted to see the back of Rebus, but I hope not.
I get asked a lot to contribute to those ‘Books of the Year’ features that appear in the newspapers around this time. Rather than repeat my favourites of this past twelve months, I’ll pass on a tip for 2008. It’s called ‘The Ossians’ and is by a young writer called Doug Johnstone. It looks like it’s about an up-and-coming rock band touring the coastal badlands of Scotland, but turns into a powerful and moving commentary on the country and its defining myths. I think it goes on sale in March.
(And my favourite book of the past twelve months may just be ‘Tin Roof Blowdown’ by James Lee Burke - sorry, couldn’t resist.)
But on to the really important stuff - Rankin’s Festive 25. The best 25 albums I’ve bought (or been given) in the past year. In no particular order:
And an honourable mention to my download of the year, Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ (for which I paid full price, pop-pickers).
So… that’s it for 2007. In 2008 you can look forward to my first opera. Okay, so it only lasts fifteen minutes and is only due to be performed in Glasgow and Edinburgh (in the spring), but I’m still proud of it. Mind you, history never remembers the librettist, and I am only the librettist - the mighty Craig Armstrong (the man behind Winona) is doing the music. Autumn 08 should also see publication of ‘Doors Open’, this being a full-length version of the serial which appeared in the New York Times back in the spring of 2007. It’s set in Edinburgh and concerns an art heist. There are robbers and cops, but no Rebus, no Siobhan, no Cafferty. Dunno when you’ll see my take on Hellblazer - depends on how fast the artist works, once he or she has been given the finished script.
Whether you like it or not, you’ve not heard the last of me. Thanks for helping make the last 20 years so memorable. Here’s to a few more, God and the Devil willing.