June 2013 newsletter

Well, Standing In Another Man’s Grave is finally out in paperback here in the UK.  As some of you will know, it takes its title from a mondegreen, meaning a misheard song lyric.  For some time, I’d thought my friend the musician Jackie Leven had been singing about ‘standing in another man’s grave’  –  it was only when I saw the lyrics that I realised it was rain he was standing in.  But by then it was too late  –  I had my title.  I’m writing another book right now (for November publication), and returned to Jackie’s lyrics in search of inspiration.  That’s why Rebus’s next adventure is going to be called Saints of the Shadow Bible.  The line comes from Jackie’s song ‘One Man, One Guitar’ on his fabulous album ‘Oh What A Blow That Phantom Dealt Me’.  The couplet in full goes like this: ‘The saints of the shadow bible following me/From bar to bar into eternity’.  Well, I knew a character who liked to frequent bars, and I started to get a sense of what those ‘saints’ and that ‘shadow bible’ might be.  The book isn’t finished yet  –  I’ve taken a day off from the third draft to pen this newsletter  –  but it’s getting there.  No road trip for Rebus this time  –  the setting is Edinburgh and its immediate suburbs.  Siobhan is back, as is Malcolm Fox . . . And I’m not going to say much more than that.  After all, my editor hasn’t seen the book yet, and I’m superstitious that way.  (I write each book on my laptop, saving the chunks of text as files  –  but I never have a file 13; I always skip from 12 to 14  –  superstitious, you see.)

I’ve promised Orion the book by the end of June, so I need to get busy.  But I’ve also agreed to a few public appearances during the month.  Those of you in and around Kirkcaldy can see me onstage with artist Jack Vettriano on the evening of June 8th.  I’ll then be telling a few tall tales at Jo Caulfield’s regular Speakeasy night in Edinburgh on June 11th, while on Sunday 23rd I’ll be at the Beverley Folk Festival in Yorkshire, at an event celebrating the life and times of the aforementioned Jackie Leven.  There’ll be stories and songs, featuring singers and musicians who knew and worked with Jackie  – I’m looking forward to that.  And on June 28th, just as I’m panicking over that imminent deadline on Saints of the Shadow Bible, I’ll be giving an evening talk at the Newton Hotel in Nairn as part of that town’s annual festival.  I haven’t been to Nairn in years though I have fond memories of the place  –  I learned to swim there one chilly summer, aged about ten… 

I plan to take a break in July, except that my editor will doubtless have some suggestions for changes to the new manuscript.  Oh, and I’ll be interviewing legendary Scottish novelist William McIlvanney at the Harrogate Crime Festival  –  check their website for details.  Come to think of it, I might also be busy fine-tuning my first play.  It launches the Lyceum Theatre’s autumn season in Edinburgh in September.  I’ve been writing it with director Mark Thomson, and have found the experience challenging but fascinating.  Mark’s initial pitch to me was: ‘Why do we never seem to see detective stories on the stage?’  We took it from there and have constructed a psychological thriller called ‘Dark Road’.  It seems to work on paper, but that may change when we start rehearsals and hear the words spoken aloud by actors for the first time…

As I hammer this newsletter out on my trusty coal-fired laptop, a Brian Eno CD is playing in the background.  It is called ‘Lux’ and is my favourite of his in quite some time.  It’s fantastic for writing to, very similar to his ‘Music For Airports’.  Much of ‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’ so far has been put together with Mr Eno as accompaniment.  He’s giving a lecture in Edinburgh in August and I’ve got tickets  –  will he be signing for fans afterwards?  I somehow doubt it.  Also in August I’ll be doing my usual slew of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival  –  more details once the programme is launched…

I hope you enjoy the summer, always supposing we get a summer this year.  For those of you either in Edinburgh or visiting the city, the Oxford Bar has started putting on music nights  –  Wednesdays and Fridays, I think, starting around 9pm in the back room.  And the owner Harry  –  one-time ‘Rudest Barman in Scotland’ (according to Rebus, at any rate)  –  has been known to get out his guitar and sing a song or two.  Changed days, my friends, changed days.

Though judging by the new book, Rebus has failed to mellow to anything like the same degree . . .

Ian