Ian Rankin seduced by Islay’s charms

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Inspector Rebus fans can breathe a sigh of relief: there will be at least one more case for the retired Edinburgh detective to crack, his creator Ian Rankin has confirmed.

‘I’ve got a contract to write one more novel and my feeling is it will be a Rebus,’ Rankin told an Islay Book Festival audience in Port Ellen on Saturday. ‘But will he be alive or dead at the end? I don’t know.’

The best-selling author appeared at two packed public events and also visited the High School in Bowmore during his four-day stay on Islay with his wife Miranda.

He came away deeply impressed with the island and the festival, which, for the second year in a row, enjoyed record attendances.

‘Islay is a fantastic place. It was my first time here and we can’t wait to come back. It’s a great festival: It really punches above its weight.’

After a boardroom tasting of a few special drams, Rankin had the filling store at Laphroaig distillery echoing to the sound of laughter as he recounted his favourite whisky stories in the company of drinks writer Dave Broom.

The following night, more than 180 people squeezed into Port Ellen’s Ramsay Hall to hear Rankin engaging in some lively exchanges with historian Sir Tom Devine on Scottish policing and other matters, ably refereed by The Sound of the Hours author Karen Campbell, a former police officer herself.

‘It is a lovely, warm and buzzy festival,’ Campbell said. ‘My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to properly see round the island, so I will definitely be back.’

Devine, once described as the rock star of Caledonian history, lived up to his reputation when his Sunday event on his book, The Scottish Clearances, had to be moved to a bigger venue at the last minute to accommodate a crowd of more than 100.

‘You under-estimated my charisma,’ the professor joked before telling a rapt audience that his latest acclaimed work might be his final major text, although he still retains thoughts of writing a definitive account of Scotland’s role in the slave trade.

Reflecting on the development of an enhanced sense of Scottish identity over recent decades , Devine said he was still unsure if it had gone far enough to deliver independence, which he famously backed before the 2014 referendum.

‘Britishness is a tough old gut … although one wonders if it will survive the current eccentricities and madness in Westminster.’

Organisers also had to scramble for extra seats for national poet Jackie Kay’s performance at the Gaelic college in Bowmore, which featured a reading of the poem she has written for the opening ceremony of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles next week and memories of island holidays as a child that feature in her acclaimed memoir Red Dust Road.

Kay, whose birth father was Nigerian, recalled visiting Mull with her adoptive parents and brother as a child and being surround by a group of locals fascinated by the sight of a white couple accompanied by two black children. ‘Have they got the English?’ she recalled one of the islanders asking.