Rebus and the rejected Rolling Stone

Author Ian Rankin reveals he based his detective on Ian Stewart, the Stone sacked for being too ugly

In Ian Rankin's Edinburgh-based crime novels, Detective Inspector John Rebus often tries to take his mind off the murders he is investigating by listening to David Bowie, Tom Waits or the Rolling Stones.

Now Rankin has revealed for the first time that music plays a much larger role in his novels: the inspiration for the character of Rebus was one of the original Rolling Stones - a man deemed too ugly to stay in the world-famous band.

Ian Stewart, who hails from a small village in Fife - the same part of the world as Rebus - was in the original Stones line-up and played on all their albums until his death in 1985.

Rankin last night told The Independent on Sunday that he had copied similarities between Rebus and Stewart as he developed the character. For starters, both are outsiders who find themselves on the edge of the action. "When you see pictures of Stewart in the Rolling Stones, his face just does not fit," said Rankin. "Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones' manager, took one look at him and said he's got to go. It was hugely embarrassing to the Stones.

"I just thought, being on the edge, not being a team player - it's so like Rebus. They are both from Fife and they both operate on the outside of some huge, successful organisation."

But while the hard-drinking John Rebus likes nothing more than spending his free time propping up the bar at his local, the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, Stewart was more at home on a golf course. "He was very un-rock'n'roll," said Rankin. "He didn't go to the pub, he went off to play golf."

Despite officially leaving the band Stewart, who was known to his fellow Stones as "Stu", remained the group's keyboard player. "He had the van," said Rankin. "It was the only way they could get to gigs. So he stayed on as a sort of tour manager."

Stewart preferred the Stones' blues-oriented tracks and can be heard on "Brown Sugar" and "Honky Tonk Women".

Stewart died of a heart attack in December 1985. He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame alongside his former bandmates in 1989 and is often referred to as the "Sixth Stone". After Stewart's death, Mick Jagger said: "I'm going to miss him a lot. He really helped this band swing on 'Honky Tonk Women' and loads of others. Stu was the one guy we tried to please when we were writing or rehearsing a song."

Cousins of Ian Stewart still live in Pittenweem, in Fife. Joyce Laing, chair of the Pittenweem Arts Festival, said Stewart's life would be celebrated at the festival next year. "We are trying to find a tribute band and we want to get somebody to write a play," she said.

Ms Laing said villagers were "very surprised" to hear that the former Rolling Stone had inspired Rankin. "It is very strange. We were all shocked to hear it."

Rankin has written 15 novels about Rebus - three of them borrow their titles from Rolling Stones albums - and they have been translated into 26 languages. The 16th in the successful series, The Naming of the Dead, is published in the autumn. A new television series based on the books, starring Ken Stott, started on ITV1 earlier this year.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power