Back in March, BookPage chatted with internationally best-selling author Ian Rankin about The Complaints, our March 2011 Mystery of the Month and the first in a new series starring Edinburgh cop Malcolm Fox, who investigates corrupt police officers.
The Impossible Dead, the second book in Rankin's riveting new series, is featured in the December 2011 Whodunit column and is “[f]illed with fascinating backstory, compelling characters and some sly social commentary.” Rankin graciously chatted with BookPage once again–this time about cops, villains and his unique writing process.
Describe your book in one sentence.
A murder in the present seems to connect to a mysterious death a quarter of a century back, and Inspector Malcolm Fox is determined to see justice done, whatever the cost.
Would you make a good cop?
I would make a terrible cop. I don't work well as part of a team, and don't take well to being told what to do by those in positions senior to mine. (I know this from past experience.) So I would have to be a maverick, and the real-life police have little patience with those.
If you could change places with any of your characters for a day, who would you choose and why?
I'd probably change places with Cafferty. He is the villain in many of the Rebus novels, the mobster who controls Edinburgh. Being inside his head would let me discover precisely why he became the man he did. Plus there'd be that vicarious thrill of being a man who is feared, a man held in awe by his minions.
What book are you embarrassed NOT to have read?
So many. I was having this very discussion last night. I studied U.S. Literature for two years at Edinburgh University, yet have never read Catcher in the Rye. That's just one example.
What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
I wrote my first detective novel (Knots and Crosses) while still a student at Edinburgh University. I had plans to become a professor of English, and was hesitant about writing in a populist genre. But the Writer-in-Residence put me right by pointing towards authors such as John Buchan. He knew that thrillers, mysteries and novels of psychological suspense can still be regarded as literature.
What is one bad habit you have no intention of breaking?
I'm not sure it's a bad habit as such–it might not work for others but it works for me. Here it is: when I commence a book I have very little idea where the story will take me. I almost never know who the villain is, or how my detective will end up solving the mystery. The first draft is an exploration. I'm playing detective, getting to know the characters and how they might connect to each other. But that means one day I may find myself reaching the end of a novel still not knowing whodunit!
What are you working on now?
I am in full ‘mulling' phase–getting vague ideas for a new book without putting very much on paper. I hope to start writing it in January or February 2012.
Also in BookPage:
Read our 7 questions interview with Rankin for The Complaints, the prequel to The Impossible Dead.