Ian Rankin’s Detective Rebus has been solving crimes in his own gruff style for 30 years. ‘Rather Be the Devil’, the latest novel, sees Rebus descend into Edinburgh’s underworld. It’s criminally good! James Franklin from Corney & Barrow shortlists three #NovelPairings and joins Ian Rankin and Damian Barr for a special Salon.
“There’s more happening in Edinburgh than anyone knows,” says Detective Sergeant John Rebus in Knots & Crosses, the first Rebus novel. In the shadow of the famous fairy-tale castle and behind those handsome stone facades, criminals lurk.
“I wanted to show the city’s dark side,” says Rankin on-stage at our special Book & Bottle Salon at Omeara in Bermondsey. “I was the first but now I’ve done umpteen novels and tartan noir is a genre. It’s getting hard to find a bit of Edinburgh where I’ve not set a crime.”
Rebus is “not the easiest of men to like.” He’s troubled by something that happened when he was in the SAS and suffers black-outs. He runs up traffic fines and generally breaks rules whenever it suits: “He resented having to play the part of a normal human animal.” He’s a maverick you love to read about but would hate to work with.
‘Rather Be the Devil’, sees a now retired Rebus with serious health worries but still hot on the trail of a cold case – the strangling of glamorous Maria Turquand in 1978 in the Caledonian Hotel. Meanwhile, Scotland wrestles with independence and Edinburgh’s underworld faces war between Darryl Christie and Rebus’s beloved nemesis Big Ger Cafferty. It bursts with tension!
“That’s what I wanted to explore,” says Franklin. “The novel is full of odd partnerships that shouldn’t work but do: Malcolm Fox and Siobhan Clarke, Cafferty and Christie etc. The Lane Gathering Semillon/Sauvignon successfully blends rich Semillon and flinty sauvignon.”
Having lived in Southern France and spent student summers at Chateau Brandeau, Rankin knows his wine: “I know Bordeaux but not much about other places. By the way, you’ve got to get naked treading grapes because pretty soon the juice comes up to your neck.”
Indeed! So, what of Franklin’s first potential #NovelPairing?
“Siobhan would definitely love this,” says Rankin. I also love this unlikely mix: soft nose then mineral tough but I was in a distinct minority at our Salon.
“This second wine is really unusual,” says James. “Salterio Mencía DO Bierzo Adegas Galegas 2015 is not quite the wine underworld but it’s certainly a secret. Mencía grapes are high in anthocyanin creating this striking red-violet and it’s really complex.”
Mencía is a completely new grape to me! I smelled old-fashioned Blackjack sweets and spiciness as it warmed. “Rebus could really get into this,” laughs Rankin. “He’s not a wine-drinker but this has Bier in the name.”
“Because you know Bordeaux, I had to pick at least one French”, says Franklin. “Bordeaux was too obvious, so I’ve gone to Madiran. The main grape in Seigneurie de Crouseilles Chateau de Crouseilles AOC Madiran 2012 is Tannat.”
“Loving the smokiness,” says Rankin. “It’s definitely rougher around the edges than Bordeaux but I like that. It’s chewy.” I found it a bit much, but this was easily the favourite wine with our audience. So, which is the winner?
“They all work,” says Rankin. “Just as all the characters are some part of me. Siobhan would want the white and I’d pick the Madiran, but Rebus would definitely down the Mencía – especially as it’s the cheapest!”