On the first weekend of July, hundreds of fans converged in Edinburgh to celebrate the life of the iconic detective, John Rebus. Rarely in literature has one fictional character garnered so much attention.

Rebus’ creator Ian Rankin exclaimed with modest surprise as he opened the festival that when he embarked on Rebus’s first novel, he would never have imagined the detective would become so popular. ‘Exit Music,’ the seventeenth book in the series was intended to be Rebus’s last case as the detective was ready to draw on his pension, but on popular demand, Rankin has encouraged him out of retirement for another three books, and has hinted there will be more.

The Oxford (Bar) Rebus’ Watering Hole

On the Rebus 30 weekend, a series of unique events was organised in association with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘A Night out with Rebus’ celebrated the detective’s taste in music, carefully curated by Rankin himself. In the relaxed atmosphere of the Queen’s Hall, Kirsty Law opened the bill, playing a few of her feisty numbers with undertones from traditional Scottish music. She was followed by My Darling Clementine, husband and wife duo Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish.

The final band of the evening was Blue Rose Code with some ballady numbers reminiscent of Van Morrison or Paul Simon. Both Ross Wilson – the man behind the band – and Rankin are long-time fans of John Martyn from whom Wilson takes a big influence. The evening was perhaps Rankin’s one personal indulgence of the weekend. He admitted that maybe not all the pieces would be to John Rebus’s taste.

Budding crime writers had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the National Museum of Scotland on Saturday. For the more curiously forensic, ‘Making A Detective’ at the imposing Assembly Halls on Saturday evening included an impressive panel of scientists and police professionals discussing the true proceedings of a crime investigation. And although crimes and procedures may be elaborated in Rankin’s novels, it was reassuring to know he has both his facts and Rebus’s banter legitimately within his pages.

For the thirstier fans, a whisky master class was not to be missed at The Caledonian. For film buffs ‘Reichenbach Falls,’ based on an original idea by Rankin, aired at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. And for hard-core fans with obscure Rebus knowledge, a light-hearted Sunday lunchtime quiz facilitated by stand-up comedian Phill Jupitus rounded off the weekend.

In the High School Yards

Rebus fans who weren’t able to attend the Rebus30 Festival, but are planning their first visit to Edinburgh, should certainly participate in a walking tour offered by With an added bonus of learning a little of the city’s history, the ‘Hidden Edinburgh’ two-hour tour follows in the footsteps of the literary icon, including readings of short pieces from Rankin’s narrative to embellish notable scenes in some of his novels.

Throughout the festival there were tours and exhibits at the National Museum to celebrate a character who is still with us today – Rankin’s latest book entitled ‘Rather Be the Devil’ conveniently hit the number one bestselling spot in the UK on the weekend. Every fan appreciated being able to spend a little more time with John Rebus in the amazing city that is Edinburgh.

The Rebus 30 Exhibition at the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh is open until January 21st 2018.

Louise Mangos is a writer and artist living on a Swiss Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @LouiseMangos or visit her website for links to some of her short fiction.


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