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REAL REBUS; (He's a central heating engineer who lives in Rankin Drive).


HIS name is familiar to millions who buy Ian Rankin's best- selling crime novels.

And today we can introduce the real-life Rebus for the first time.

He hangs out with author Rankin and drinks at the same pub. And he even lives in Rankin Drive, Edinburgh.

But he's never solved a crime in his life - which is hardly surprising because he is a central heating engineer.

Author Rankin has just revealed that his pal Joe, 56, is the real Mr Rebus. But he came up with the name for his detective before he met him in Swany's Pub in Newington, Edinburgh.

Rankin said yesterday: 'It's the funniest thing. I had just moved back to Edinburgh after living in France and I was going round trying to find a pub to be my local.

'I was in Swany's with a friend who is a bookseller and he introduced me to Joe and his wife Margaret.

'When Joe told me his surname was Rebus I thought he was pulling my leg. But then I checked the telephone book and he was listed as J Rebus. Not only that, but they live in Rankin Drive.

'I had just made the name Rebus up. If you look it up in a dictionary, it says picture puzzle. My idea was Morse was named after a code so my character would be named after a puzzle.

'I had no idea there was anyone who already had that surname. I still go to Swany's on Friday nights and I often have a drink with Joe, my bookseller friend and a retired police sergeant.

'But Joe has never been a detective.'

Since Rankin created the hard- drinking detective, he has become a major figure in crime fiction.

His books sell by the million all over the world and his talks and public appearances attract thousands of fans.

There is a even a Rebus tour round Edinburgh which takes fans to see some of the locations mentioned in the books.


Two feature-length TV films of the Rebus books will be shot this year, starring Edinburgh-born Ken Stott.

Rankin said: 'I remember asking Joe when I first met him if he had read any of the books but he said, 'No, I haven't got round to it'.

'I have given him a few signed copies since then and I think he's read them all now.'

Joe's surname is Polish and Rankin has now written Polish ancestry into his character's background. Rankin said: 'I didn't know until then the name was Polish but after meeting Joe I gave Rebus Polish ancestry. The whole thing is quite extraordinary.'

Inspector Rebus's first name - John - was chosen because the author was a big fan of the Shaft books and main character John Shaft.

Joe admits he had barely heard of Rankin before he met him but is proud to share a name with one of the most popular characters in crime fiction.

He said: 'When I was first introduced to Ian and told him my surname was Rebus, he looked at me as if to say I was making it up. But then he seemed stunned to meet a real-life Rebus.

'He has given me copies of his books and he writes in them 'to the other Rebus'.

'I think it's quite amusing that he is now telling people that the other Rebus is a heating engineer.'

mailfile The rise and rise of Ian Rankin

-Edinburgh University graduate Rankin says he has worked as a grape-picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher and hi-fi journalist.

-He used to play in a punk band called the Dancing Pigs.

-The first Rebus novel, Knots & Crosses, was published in 1987.

-Ken Stott will star as Rebus on TV in two films, taking over from John Hannah.

-Rankin was awarded the OBE in 2002.


Actors: Stott, right, has taken over from Hannah Pub pals: Rankin with Joe Rebus yesterday Picture: JEREMY STOCKTON
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 17, 2005
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