Dour detective may not survive the fluctuating moods of his creator

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The Independent Culture

There is renewed hope for the underworld figures of fictional Edinburgh. One of the most celebrated, if taciturn, upholders of law and order on the streets of Scotland's capital faces an untimely demise.

Detective Inspector John Rebus may be killed off early, the novelist Ian Rankin said yesterday. For a character who has confronted corrupt members of the city élite, organised criminal gangs and the demons of his own character, Rebus's greatest threat now comes from the fluctuating moods of his creator. Rankin said he never knew until the final pages of his books what would happen and whether Rebus would survive before he retires from the Lothian and Borders force.

The Scottish novelist told an audience at the Edinburgh arts festival: "Usually he's in peril in the final 20 pages and maybe next time he won't make it. I might just bump him off – it depends how I'm feeling the day I write the final pages.

"He's now about 55 and you really can't have him chasing criminals any more. I reckon he's got about another four or five books left in him. Retirement is going to catch up on him sooner or later."

Despite a self-destructive personality and a tendency to drinking heavily, Rebus has lasted for 15 volumes in the hugely popular series of crime novels. Rankin predicted that the dour detective had another five years left before he was due to retire. With Rebus out of the way – either dead or in retirement – it would give room for his thrusting young colleague, Siobhan Clarke, to move into the spotlight.

Rankin said: "If he retires, she could become the main character and he could be on the sidelines, doing the things she is not allowed to do because she is hidebound by her set of rules."

Speaking in Edinburgh to promote his latest Rebus instalment, The Resurrection Men due out in January, Rankin said his main problems were with the real world. "I'd like a bit more violent crime so my stories didn't look so exaggerated," he said.