#FromPageToScreen – Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels

Whenever a book becomes a best seller, you start to hear murmurings about adaptations whether for tv or the big screen. Some people love this and can’t wait to see their favourite stories and characters brought to life on screen. Other people hate it and want to keep their own ideas of how they envisage the characters. Sometimes an adaptation works really well, sometimes it’s not so well received. In this occasional series, I’m going to look at some books which I have read and see what I made of the adaptation. One thing I’m sure we can all agree on: the book is always better!

Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh set detective series featuring John Rebus has been both long-running and hugely successful. To date there are 24 novels featuring the detective plus several short stories. Many of the books have been adapted for television, there have been several radio productions and there’s even been a stage show version adapted by Rona Munro. I’ve read most of the books but have fallen behind in the past few years so need to catch up from book 21 onwards. Although I don’t read an awful lot of crime, I do enjoy the Rebus novels (and Rankin’s other work too) in no small part because of the Edinburgh setting.

Rebus has been played by two actors on the small screen and a new adaptation is set to start filming next month. The actor chosen to play a younger Rebus in the new series is Richard Rankin (no relation apparently) who is known for playing Roger Wakefield in Outlander. Here are a couple of clips of the two actors who have already played the surly detective.

First of all, John Hannah in the adaptation of Black and Blue.

And now Ken Stott in the official trailer for the series.

What did I think?

I’ve enjoyed all the adaptations that I’ve seen. I think it’s fair to say that John Hannah isn’t who many people envisage as Rebus but I thought he played the character well anyway and gave quite an in-depth look into Rebus’s inner thoughts and feelings. Ken Stott on the other hand was just perfect. As the trailer says, it’s seems like it’s the part he was born to play. Of course the tv series missed out much of detail from the books. The John Hannah versions are longer and are generally considered more true to the books. Most of the filming has taken place in Edinburgh of course and many locals have come across the film crews. I recall coming home along the prom with my daughters after school one day to find the local pub (now The Espy) being used as a location. It was really interesting to see how many times they filmed Ken Stott standing outside the pub and from how many different angles for what turned out to be just a few seconds on screen!

Where can you watch it?

Hmm, this is a bit tricky. The series was originally filmed for STV and some episodes still occasionally get broadcast on terrestrial tv. Both clips above were from streaming service Acorn TVbut they don’t seem to be available on that anymore. It looks like it might be available on Britbox. The new series is going to be on streaming channel Viaplay.

Have you watched the adapted version? Have you read the book? Let me know what you think especially if you have both read the book and watched an adaptation. Did you think it was a good re-imagining of the book or did it spoil what you thought of the book?

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