Hometown: Kingdom of Fife, Scotland
- Graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature
- A regular No. 1 bestseller, he has received numerous awards, including the Chandler-Fulbright award and four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards, including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005
- In 2009, he was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Hall of Fame; in 2002, he was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature
His new book, The Impossible Dead, comes out Oct. 4
Canadian book tour in October:
- The Vancouver International Writers Festival, Oct. 20-22
- Ottawa Writers Festival, Oct. 24
- Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct. 25-28
- Quebec Writers Festival, Oct. 28
- Montreal, Paragraph Books, Oct. 29
- Halifax, Oct. 30
He’s an international award-winning author famous for his Inspector Rebus novels.
Since publishing his first Rebus novel in 1987, the books have been translated into 22 languages and have topped bestseller lists on several continents.
Mystery writer Ian Rankin’s second book in his latest series hits bookshelves in a few weeks, followed by a coast-to-coast Canadian tour.
When he’s back home in Edinburgh, Rankin drives a 2004 Volvo XC90, a 2006 Volkswagen Beetle, and a 2011 Volkswagen Caravelle SE van, which he had modified so he could transport his teenage son, who is in a wheelchair.
Why did you choose a VW Caravelle to modify?
My youngest son, Kit, is 17 and he’s in a wheelchair. He’s such a weight now – he’s so heavy that transferring him from the wheelchair to the Volvo and back to his wheelchair was getting too much for us. So, there’s this company in England called Lewis Reed and you take whatever van you want brand new and they modify it.
I bought it brand new from a dealership in April. It’s a top-of-the-line van – a Caravelle SE, which stands for special equipment. It’s got electric doors and a picnic table in the back, leather seats, an iPod dock and sat nav. It’s got everything.
We didn’t want to buy a van that felt like a van to drive. I didn’t want to feel like a delivery guy. When we took it out for a test drive, it was very smooth. It’s very easy to manoeuvre and comfortable so you can do a nice long drive and you don’t feel like you’re delivering furniture with it.
The nice thing about the VW is there are an awful lot of options. The seats will switch around 180 degrees so the two of you can be facing each other in the back. You can take the individual seats out and put them back in again very easily. It can take six of us – five plus a wheelchair. I quite like the sliding side doors so again you can get into the van to deal with Kit without leaving too much of a gap between you and the vehicle next to you when you’re parked.
What modifications did you have done?
They put in wheelchair ramps at the back so you can push the wheelchair up and into the van. And they put a pneumatic suspension at the back so you can lower the back of the van and once the wheelchair is in you can raise it up again.
They added all the fixings you need – you need four points in the floor where you can attach straps to the wheels to stop the wheelchair from moving.
The ramp is great. It’s made a big difference because he just gets into the wheelchair and straight into the vehicle and within a couple of minutes you’re moving – you’re off and running.
When we need to transport him anywhere it’s a nice way to do it. And it has a touch of luxury so you don’t feel like you’re just delivering him from A to B. You’re actually enjoying the drive as well.
How much did it cost to modify your van?
I would say somewhere between £5,000 and £10,000 ($7,800 to $15,700).
So far, have you had any problems with the van?
We are having problems with the van. The day your photographer came to take pictures of me, I don’t look terribly happy because I attempted to start the car and it wouldn’t start. If we leave it four-five days without turning the engine over, the battery is completely flat. So there’s an investigation going on at the moment to find out what’s causing that.
Although it’s under a warranty with VW, it’s not under a warranty for the modifications with VW. That warranty is from another company.
What was your first car?
The first car I had was a Citroen 2CV – the little snail-shaped cars.
Nothing could go wrong in that. If something went wrong you could usually fix it with a pair of tights. If the fan belt slipped off you just got your girlfriend to take her tights off and tie it around and you had a new fan belt. I’ve done some run-and-repairs in my time, but I’ve never done that one. …
I’m not very mechanically minded. When I had the 2CV Citroen in London, I went out one day and it was dead and nothing was happening. So I opened up the hood and checked the oil and checked the spark plugs. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it. And then my wife came out and said someone has stolen the battery. So there was just a big gap where the battery should be and I missed that.
Are you a car guy?
A little bit. But what I noticed about modern cars is you don’t need to go under the hood very often.
They’re a lot more reliable than they used to be. And there’s an awful lot of electronics now. So even if you know the basics of an engine there’s more that can go wrong with that car.
If I could bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?
Possibly a Bentley GT – I did have a test drive once and it was a very nice car to drive. It was a bit like driving a mansion … I love cars. I love luxury cars and I love fast cars.
All my cars were bought for a specific purpose. And I always feel a pang of guilt if I think about buying one because it would be just for me to go out and have fun. Instead, we recently got a loan of a BMW 6-Series convertible and went up north. … after a couple of days we handed it back and said, ‘Thank you very much’ and went back to the VW and Volvo.
The interview has been edited and condensed.