How We Met: Ian Rankin & James Yorkston

'Because he was a Fifer, there was a certain brotherhood between us'

Ian Rankin, 52

The award-winning crime writer (left in picture) is best known for his 18 novels featuring the detective Inspector Rebus, played by Ken Stott on TV. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two sons.

We met at a festival called Homegame, in a Fife fishing village in 2009. It's run by a local musical collective he's part of, called Fence. He was playing sets and wandering around and I went up and told him I was a big fan. What I hadn't realised, listening to him sing on CD, was that he's Scottish – I thought he was English! Turns out he grew up in Fife, 15 miles from me, which was a big connection, as Fifers are very close-knit.

I'm a huge fan of his music. I'd say it's nu-folk, though James is going to punch me for saying that; there's acoustic guitars there, though he's louder and rockier live than you might expect.

Like a lot of musicians he's shy off stage; ironically [as an author], I'm more of a performer than him. But he has a great sense of humour in everything he does. Inside the box-set of his latest album [I Was a Cat from a Book] were some checkers pieces. So I asked, "What are they for?" He said, "You work it out!" Eventually I realised that opening up the gatefold produced a backgammon board.

James has been to my house in Edinburgh, bringing his guitar and playing new songs in my living-room. It was lovely to sit there, but at the same time I'm thinking, I wish this was in my genes. I'm jealous, as I have no musical ability. We talk about a lot of stuff, but we both know certain things you don't talk about if you want to remain friends – football and politics.

We've spoken about his childhood, about nearly getting out of the music industry as his albums weren't selling. A lot of writers have that problem, too: a career filled with doubt about your own abilities. But James isn't going to jump through hoops to get into the charts or aim to create a certain sound just because it's considered pop.

I was asked to curate a music festival in Aberfeldy a couple of years ago, and I asked James to headline a night. I thought he do a nu-folk solo show, but he turned up with an Indian musician playing the sitar and they did an intense instrumental set – it was hypnotic, and totally unlike what I was expecting.

James Yorkston, 41

A Scottish folk musician and member of contemporary music group the Fence Collective, Yorkston lives in Fife.

I'm not a huge fan of crime fiction – I was always busy reading more pretentious stuff such as Chekhov. Several years ago, though, I got a call from a friend saying, "You're in one of Ian Rankin's books!" I went into my local bookshop to find it, but his section had a dozen books on the shelf and I didn't have a clue which one, so it took a while! Anyway, it was [2004 novel] Fleshmarket Close and Rebus was listening to one of my albums. So I bought it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ian is a real music head and has a great reputation in the [Scottish] east-coast music scene, regularly turning up to gigs and festivals. At first I found it rather amusing as after a few drinks he looks so much like [Yorkston's fellow Domino Records artist] Tom Bauchop, so I always thought he was friendly face – and because he was a Fifer, there was a certain brotherhood between us.

He's cool, down-to-earth and has a lot of respect for all musicians. He's way more successful than me. Sometimes people question why I'm doing something so daft when I could have been a doctor. But with Ian, I love how he can see the value in it.

I don't read crime drama outside Ian's books, but he's such a good read for me as his work's based in Edinburgh, has all these musical references and it's effortless to read. I love the way he builds up the tension and puts in the red herrings. I can see why he's stayed with Rebus; he's multifaceted. And in my mind Rankin looks like Rebus, except Rebus is fatter and older. I've just read his most recent book and loved it. I sent him a small appraisal of it this morning, but he ignored it and talked about something different.

Making a living as a musician is tricky and I need all the help I can get. So I was grateful when he came to help me launch my own book [It's Lovely to be Here: the Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent] in Edinburgh. The event sold out quickly as most people were buying tickets because he was there. But during his talk there was no mention of his own work; he only talked about me and my book.

Unless I've had a double espresso, Ian's generally a more confident person than me; I think it may be the confidence that success brings, while I'm more of a cult name. But I'm not angry about it; it's a privilege knowing him, and I have enough to look after my family.

'I Was a Cat from a Book' (Domino Records) is out now. Ian Rankin's latest Rebus mystery, 'Standing in Another Man's Grave', (£18.99, Orion) is out now

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?