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|First appearance||Knots and Crosses|
|Created by||Ian Rankin|
|Portrayed by|| Alexander Morton (BBC radio)|
John Hannah (TV)
Ken Stott (TV)
Ron Donachie (BBC radio, stage)
Charles Lawson (stage)
Brian Cox (short film)
|Title||Detective Sergeant/Detective Inspector|
|Family||Michael Rebus (brother)|
|Children||Samantha Rebus (daughter)|
Detective Inspector John Rebus is the protagonist in the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin, ten of which have so far been televised as Rebus . The novels are mostly set in and around Edinburgh. Rebus has been portrayed by John Hannah and Ken Stott for Television, with Ron Donachie playing the character for the BBC Radio dramatisations.
According to Ian Rankin, John Rebus was born in 1947 and grew up in a pre-fabricated house in Craigmead Terrace, Cardenden, Fife (Rankin's home town),the son of a stage hypnotist. (However, the first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, published in 1987, explicitly states that he is 42 years old. There is a second mention later in that novel that he was born before the end of World War II, thereby indicating he was born in 1945.) His grandfather was an immigrant from Poland. He grew up in a terraced house along with his brother, Michael.
He left school at the age of fifteen and joined the Army, one of the few mainstream career options open to young men of the area, the others being coal-mining or working at Rosyth Dockyard, whilst his brother followed in their father's footsteps. After serving in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, he applied to undergo selection for the SAS. After passing selection – where Rebus excelled – he and a colleague were selected for further training for a secretive elite programme, training which eventually prompted Rebus to resign from the SAS and which spurred a nervous breakdown. Following lobbying from the Army, Rebus was given a position with Lothian and Borders Police in order to recover from the trauma. He went to Summerhall as a detective constable in November 1982.In many of his books Rebus works from the St Leonard's Police Station in Edinburgh.
Ian Rankin prefers to leave the physical appearance of his characters to the reader's imagination, although when Rebus is first introduced in Knots and Crosses , we learn that he has brown hair and green eyes, like his brother. His rough lifestyle means that his clothes are often less than immaculate. He has been severely burned, was in a car crash and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in retirement.
Rebus was raised a Protestant but was indifferent like his father; his mother was a "religious woman" but died young. He went to church every Sunday (Presbyterian or Calvinist guilt?) with his mother, until when he was 12 or 13 she said he could stay home with his father, which he did. After killing a young drug dealer, he considers going to a church in Mayfield with a minister "not overly keen on prying into one’s affairs".He had nothing against Catholics, though mistrusting the "shrine" mentality. He works for a bigot, Chief Inspector Lauderdale, who he winds up whenever he can and calls him "the Clockwork Orangeman" behind his back. His best pre-school playmate had been Miles Skelly a Catholic - until they went to different schools, his first lesson in "the divide". He once said "I don't believe in heaven", although he has also confessed to a priest.
He was married, but divorced sometime in the 1980s. His ex-wife, Rhona, and his daughter, Samantha, appear frequently in the novels. Since the series takes place in real time, Samantha grows from a child to a young woman then a woman with a daughter Carrie.
In Knots and Crosses, Rebus is a Detective Sergeant, but is promoted to Detective Inspector sometime before the start of Hide and Seek , four years later. He has not been promoted since, although he has turned down a promotion on at least one occasion. His advancing years and retirement mean that he is unlikely to receive another chance.
Rebus is for the most part apolitical – in Strip Jack it is revealed that he has only voted three times in his adult life, once for Labour, once for the Conservatives and once for the SNP.His general ambivalence towards politics is tempered by a dislike of sectarianism, resulting from his experiences as a soldier in Northern Ireland. He also reveals that he abstained on the Scottish devolution referendum in 1979 with suggested occasional guilt pangs when he later befriends an independence advocate. He voted against independence in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Many plots feature nascent political independence or devolution as backdrop with reference and settings including Scottish parliament.
Rebus can be said to belong to a long tradition of paternal Scottish hard men. A natural leader whose gruff exterior and fierce will to succeed in his field belies a benevolent nature. The character owes as much to the likes of Jock Stein and Bill Shankly as it does to a more obvious relation, Jim Taggart. The post-war upbringing on a Scottish housing scheme amidst the decline of heavy industry, a fondness for alcohol, an identification with those who struggle against adversity, a distrust of authority, stubbornnessand an intimidating personal manner. He sees things in black and white and classifies people as either good or bad. For example, in Dead Souls he outs a convicted child sex offender who has been released after serving time and is trying to reform. The paedophile dies and Rebus shows little remorse. In Trip Trap he realises that George Gallagher did not fall down the stairs but was pushed by her bullied and abused wife Grace; he felt "vindicated" and that he was being right and fair; but at the same time "felt a complete and utter bastard … as though he’d just sentenced his own mother."
He has a strong love for books and music, owns an extensive record collection and drives a Saab 900. Rebus is a smoker and heavy drinker and often orders a pint of beer (generally IPA) and a whisky (generally Bells). The traits that keep him strong are also the traits that drive those closest to him away. It is the pervasive image of Rebus as the noble loner that wins the sympathy of readers.
Rebus does have a string of romantic liaisons, but apart from his marriage to Rhona none last very long.He has been linked with DI Gill Templer. He has a strong platonic relationship with his understudy and protégée , Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke. His longest relationship has been with Patience Aitken which spanned several novels. Either his relationships are improper and unsuitable – with women personally linked to the cases Rebus is working on, or else they find that Rebus is 'married' to his job, and cannot be fully committed to a relationship.
In an Independent on Sunday interview Rankin said that he drew "some of his inspiration" for the character from the "sixth Stone", Ian Stewart.Three of the Inspector Rebus novels are named after Stones albums: Black and Blue , Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet .
In a 2007 interview with BBC Radio Scotland, Rankin corrected his interviewer in the description of Exit Music as not the last Rebus novel, but Rebus's retirement novel. Rankin expects to revisit the Edinburgh he created in fiction, with Clarke as his central police officer character. In the same interview, Rankin suggests several reasons for his creation's popularity, despite the policeman's unlikeability. First, Rebus is an outsider, and many people can feel as though they do not fit in as well as they think they should; secondly, Rebus is a curmudgeon, and there is a pleasure in such characters; and finally, he does not just solve cases, he also has the intention of doing some greater good as well.
On the 13 December 2009 edition of the BBC Radio Scotland programme Shereen, Rankin admitted that he knows where Rebus is in retirement: working on cold cases at police headquarters as a civilian. Rankin said it was possible that his new character, Inspector Fox, may either bump into Rebus or end up on an investigation that has something to do with a skeleton in Rebus's closet. However, including Rebus in a novel currently would mean that Scottish Television would have the right to produce the novel, so Rankin admitted that he might hold off on that plot for some time.
In 2012, Rebus returned in Standing in Another Man's Grave, where he is indeed working for the police, as a civilian, on cold cases. Rebus also has a chance to rejoin the police as retirement age has been increased. According to Ian Rankin, rights have reverted to him regarding the Rebus character.
In 2017 Rankin said initially he aged Rebus in real time but since retirement he has slowed down Rebus aging. Rebus was 40 in the first book "Knots and Crosses" (1987) and should, therefore, be 70 in 2017; but, in Rankin's mind, Rebus is still in his mid-60s.
Plans were afoot in the late 1980s and early '90s to bring Rebus to television in an adaptation of Knots and Crosses with Leslie Grantham in the lead but this came to nothing. Ian Rankin believes that it was likely they would have made Rebus English or relocated the entire story to London.
Rankin has revealed the BBC were also keen to cast Robbie Coltrane as Rebus in a mooted adaptation of the series in the 1990s. Rankin smiled a bit, imagining flashbacks to Rebus's SAS training with Private Robbie Coltrane running over the assault course!
In the Rebus television adaptations he was played by John Hannah in the first series, a casting decision in which Hannah felt he was forced. It was his production company behind the series and his original suggestion was Peter Mullan. However, he claimed the corporation would not commission a relatively unknown actor. In the later series, following Hannah and his production team's exit, the role was taken over by Ken Stott.
A lot of Rebus's character foibles are glossed over in the adaptations, for example his large LP collection and the frequent popular music references and thoughts that Ian Rankin weaves into the stories. However, Rebus' reliance on alcohol is evident and he is often seen drinking in the Oxford Bar. Also, in the television series Rebus is portrayed as being a supporter of Hibernian (like Siobhan Clarke). This is not found in Ian Rankin's books, he having stated outside the books that Rebus is a Raith Rovers supporter.Rebus's Fife accent is softened as well; in the novel Tooth and Nail , London Metropolitan Police colleagues find it difficult to understand his speech.
Alexander Morton played Rebus in a 1999 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Let It Bleed .
Ron Donachie starred as Rebus in BBC Radio 4's dramatizations of The Falls (2008),Resurrection Men (2008), Strip Jack (2010), The Black Book (2012), Black and Blue (2013) and "Rebus Set in Darkness" (2014).
BBC Radio has also broadcast abridged readings of Ian Rankin's "Rebus" novels, including Let It Bleed read by Alexander Morton, Death Is Not the End read by Douglas Henshall and Beggar's Banquet read by James MacPherson.
Rankin, with Rona Munro wrote the stage play Rebus: Long Shadows , which premiered at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in September 2018. Northern Irish actor Charles Lawson played Rebus. Ron Donachie, who had frequently played the character for BBC Radio, took over the role for the 2019 run.
Brian Cox plays an older Rebus in the short film Rebus: The Lockdown Blues for BBC Scotland's Scenes for Survival, which is set in a locked down Edinburgh during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was written by Ian Rankin for the National Theatre of Scotland.
Ian James Rankin is a Scottish crime writer, best known for his Inspector Rebus novels.
Kenneth Campbell Stott is a Scottish stage, television and film actor who won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1995 in the play Broken Glass at Royal National Theatre. He portrayed the dwarf Balin in The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), and Ian Garrett in the 2014 BBC TV mini-series The Missing starring alongside James Nesbitt.
The Inspector Rebus books are a series of detective novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin. The novels, centred on Detective Inspector John Rebus, are mostly based in and around Edinburgh.
Rebus is a British television detective drama series based on the Inspector Rebus novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin. The series was produced by STV Studios for the ITV network, and four series were broadcast between 26 April 2000 and 7 December 2007. The first series starred John Hannah as DI John Rebus; and was co-produced by Hannah's own production company, Clerkenwell Films. After Hannah quit the series, the role of Rebus was re-cast, with Ken Stott appearing as Rebus in three subsequent series, which were produced in-house by STV.
Knots and Crosses is a 1987 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the first of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was written while Rankin was a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. In the introduction to this novel, Rankin states that Rebus lives directly opposite the window in Marchmont that he looked out of while writing the book.
Hide and Seek is a 1991 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the second of the Inspector Rebus novels. This novel is not to be confused with James Patterson's 1996 novel Hide and Seek.
Strip Jack is a 1992 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the fourth of the Inspector Rebus novels.
Mortal Causes is a 1994 novel by Ian Rankin. It is the sixth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was the fourth episode in the Rebus television series starring John Hannah, airing in 2004.
Let it Bleed is a 1995 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the seventh of the Inspector Rebus novels. The US edition has a final chapter which the UK edition does not have, as the author's 'Introduction' explains.
Black & Blue is a 1997 crime novel by Ian Rankin. The eighth of the Inspector Rebus novels, it was the first to be adapted in the Rebus television series starring John Hannah, airing in 2000.
The Hanging Garden is a 1998 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the ninth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was the second episode in the Rebus television series starring John Hannah, airing in 2001.
Fleshmarket Close is a 2004 crime novel by Ian Rankin, and is named after a real close in Edinburgh between the High Street and Market Street, crossing Cockburn Street. It is the fifteenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. "Fleshmarket" is the Scots term for butcher's market. It was released in the US under the title Fleshmarket Alley. The novel was the basis for the second episode in the second Rebus television series starring Ken Stott which was aired in 2006.
The Naming of the Dead is a crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the sixteenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It is set in Edinburgh in July 2005, in the week of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
Tartan Noir is a form of crime fiction particular to Scotland and Scottish writers. It has its roots in Scottish literature but borrows elements from elsewhere, including from the work of American crime writers of the second half of the twentieth century, especially of the hard-boiled genre, and of European authors.
Ronald Eaglesham Porter, known professionally as Ron Donachie, is a Scottish actor. He is known for starring as DI John Rebus in the BBC Radio 4 dramatisations of the Ian Rankin "Rebus" detective novels and for his supporting roles in films The Jungle Book (1994), Titanic and television series Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.
Chris Dolan is a Scottish novelist, poet, and playwright.
Standing in Another Man's Grave is the eighteenth instalment in the bestselling Inspector Rebus series of crime novels, published in 2012. The title of the book is a mondegreen, Rankin having misheard the Scottish singer songwriter Jackie Leven singing "Standing in Another Man's Rain", which mistake he gives to Rebus. Excerpts from Leven's songs appear with each division of the book.
Rebus: Long Shadows is a 2018 play written by Ian Rankin and Rona Munro. It is an installment of Rankin's Inspector Rebus series, written for the stage for the first time.
In a House of Lies is the 22nd instalment in the Inspector Rebus series written by Ian Rankin. In a House of Lies entered the hardback chart at No. 1 on the first week of its release.