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‘A mugging gone wrong?’ Clarke suggested into the silence.

Rebus just shrugged, meaning he didn’t think so. He asked Clarke to shine the torch down the body: black leather jacket, an open-necked patterned shirt which had probably started out blue, faded denims held up with a black leather belt, black suede shoes. As far as Rebus could tell, the man’s face was lined, the hair graying. Early fifties? Around five feet nine or ten. No jewellery, no wristwatch. Brining Rebus’s personal body-count to…what? Maybe thirty or forty over the course of his three-decades-plus on the force. Another ten days and this poor wretch would have been somebody else’s problem – and still could be.

-Excerpt from the opening of Exit Music by Ian Rankin

  1. What do you love about being a writer?
    I like the flexible hours, not having to wear a suit to the office and being my own boss! I also like that I can make a living from my imagination.

  2. What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
    The biggest challenge is probably the same one all writers face - you want each new book to be better than its predecessor. I think we are all in search of perfection - the perfectly structured story, which says exactly what we want to say about the world using the best possible combinations of words, characters and images. Sadly, we never quite manage this and so have to try again.

  3. If you were not a writer, what other profession would you want to pursue?
    Like many of my fellow crime writers, I had an early hankering to be a rock star. I'd also love to be able to draw/paint. Or play jazz tenor sax. But I can also see myself in more prosaic professions - running a neighbourhood bar, for example.

  4. In your opinion, what is the most influential crime novel of the last 100 years?
    Different schools of crime writing have been influenced by different books. Hard-boiled writers will look towards Chandler or Ellroy; other writers may prefer Sayers or Simenon. For the current generation of younger, urban-centred writers, I'd say Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs is a contender: a big evil baddie; sharp psychology; a layer of mythology.

  5. Which fictional hero do you admire or despise the most?
    In equal measure, I despise and admire Alex, the anti-hero of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. His is a brutally seductive voice. He's bright but dangerous: a winning combination.

  6. After writing, how do you spend the rest of your time?
    I sit in bars and cafes, do crosswords, listen to music, watch DVDs with my 15-year old (son, not malt). I go for meals with my wife. I do a lot of paperwork associated with being a writer but not actually creative in any way. Very little of my time 'as a writer' is spent actually writing.

  7. What city or location has the most impact on your writing?
    I started writing stories about Edinburgh to make some kind of sense of the place. That project is ongoing.

  8. Do your books have a message?
    Maybe I've been trying to explain Scotland to the world (as well as to myself). Each book is another piece in the jigsaw describing this small, beguilingly complex nation.

  9. What are you currently reading?
    I'm reading an early copy of Tin-Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. It is an angry but poetic book about Hurricane Katrina's legacy to New Orleans.

  10. If you could meet any person (living or dead), who would that be?
    I'd love to spend some time with Raymond Chandler. From his biography, letters and essays I see him as congenial company, a good friend, a man of fierce (but quiet) intellect. He also liked a drink.

  11. What is your greatest vice?
    I buy an awful lot of CDs (and vinyl LPs... and downloads...) But that's a cheap vice. Same goes for booze. Same vices I had when I was a teenager.

  12. What is your greatest extravagance?
    I also buy a lot of twentieth century Scottish art - more expensive than the above. And I like a good bottle of wine when I'm in a restaurant.

  13. What is your idea of misery?
    I actually enjoy misery. I like nothing better than having a good rant to myself about the world while listening to early Leonard Cohen. But for real misery, when I'm on a long overseas tour I do miss my kids.

  14. What is your idea of happiness?
    Happiness is relative and elastic - some days it'll be the newspaper and a cold pint at the Oxford Bar. Maybe it'll be dinner with friends, or hitting the number one spot in the bestseller list, or seeing my favoured football team win a game. Or hearing a new band and liking them immediately. Or opening a book by a stunning new writer. Country walks, cycling along the canal-bank, browsing record shops... Simple pleasures, eh?

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