essentially an expression of Ian’s personality in that he uses the books to look at the world we live in and say “What happened here?" and “Who is responsible for this'.’". I think with the politicians continuing to be self- seeking and religion continuing to be sectarian. [an is trying to understand or explain those institutions.’
li/(lt‘k ck" Blue is the ﬁrst of the two feature-length Rebus stories to be filmed so far with The Hanging (iun/vn to follow in the autumn. The first tackles some of those institutions Rankin is attempting to fathom and looks at the corruption within. The police. naturally. is seen to be peopled by more than just the odd bad apple: even public library servants are seen to be far from immune when it comes to getting hackhanders: and the teachings of the bible are also warped by the key felons at the story‘s heart.
In Rankin's Black A” Blue. a
woman slaughterer dubs himself
Johnny Bible after the homicidal antics of the I‘)()()s (ilasgow murderer. Bible John. No one is quite sure what
happened to BJ alter his campaign of
death but in Rankin's imagination. he has returned to seek out and possibly wreak horrible vengeance upon the young pretender. Legal requirements and sympathy for the family and friends of the girls killed by Bible John meant that the characters are now known as The Preacher and The Disciple.
Having chosen straight away to avoid any problems with that topic. the producers cut out one potential bit of bad publicity. However. others have risen up. ‘Drugs raid on STV cop‘s party' roared one Sunday tabloid front page in early December with a picture of John Hannah chomping on a sausage beside a story of a bust on an lidinburgh celebration attended by cast and crew which uncovered quantities of cocaine. cannabis and ecstasy. Then in March. along came a story that actors‘ union liquin was threatening action over (‘lerkenwell's alleged insistence that all players should be based in lidinburgh during filming to save on travelling expenses.
Still. any publicity and all that. But having finally got to the stage where we can get a glimpse of the series which has unfortunately. and unwisely. been dubbed as 'litggurt 2. is it any cop'.’ Well. we decided to ask
16 THE “ST 13 27 Apr 2000
What does a real-life ex-cop make of the sexist and racist ramblings of Irvine Welsh's DetectiveSergeant Bruce Robertson? Words: Mark Fisher
Watching the detective
He farts, he wanks, he gets off on illegal hardcore porn. His idea of a joke is a dirty phone call to a vulnerable woman. He spreads dangerous rumours about a workmate's sexuality. complains /'
- viciously about the force's race
relations policy and makes an under-age suspect give him a
_ blow job. Detective Sergeant Bruce
Robertson is not a role model the . Lothian and Borders Police likes to use in its recruitment drives.
But how near the truth is the hero of Irvine Welsh's Filth? We took retired police constable Len Phillips to see Tam Dean Burn's one-man performance based on Welsh's book at the Edinburgh King's Theatre. Phillips, who put in 25 years service in West Lothian before retiring in 1987, was born in India of Anglo-Indian
~ parentage. You wouldn't know that to look
at him; his accent is the only clue to his background. All the same, his experience of .racism in the force was persistent and he says in that respect Wel‘Sh's vision is spot on.
'There wasn't anything of the sexual
_ thing in‘my experience,’ says Phillips who
can't bare to watch cop shows on TV. 'but the racial part of it was done in private, in the master room, the briefing office, the general office. I experienced that. It wasn't isolated, ittwas continuous. There were certain officers who didn'tindulge in that sort of thing, but some were blatant. It was
one. Detective Sergeant Drew Mutter from (‘riminal Investigations at liettes. both a keen reader of the books and a man who knows the territory from first-hand experience. llis reaction to our preview tape was decidedly mixed. While conceding that Rebus achieves a greater sense of reality within its dramatic structures than many others of its ilk. D.S. Mutter points out the inevitable flaws when artistic licence is wielded. ‘I don‘t think that the real Bible John was an intellectual person.. he says of the Preacher character. ‘Yet. here he overcomes the Procurator liiscal system to get information rather easily.‘
Rebus follows in the
felonous footsteps of (left to right) Hamish
Macbeth, McCallum, Cracker and Taggart
Tam Dean Burn in Irvine Welsh's Filth
definitely a factor holding me
back in my police career.’
It's hard to say for sure that the lighted paper put through his letter box was racially motivated. but it seems significant that it never happened to anyone else at his station. 'l've been called a “black bastard“ frequently both within the police and on the street,‘ says Phillips without malice. 'I suppose I worry about ignorance, because that's all it amounts to.’
Having served in the RAF, he was shocked by the attitudes in the- police. 'There Wasn’t any hint of racism in the Air Force,’ he says. 'It was a real surprise to go into the police. From one uniform service into another; I really didn't expect it.’
But even though Welsh's satirical vision of a pathological racist struck a chord. Phillips has to admit a character like D.S. Bruce Robertson wouldn’t last long. 'Not many are as bad as that]. he says. 'No
" matter how clever‘ he was. I don't think
he'd manage to do it. He'd be weeded out somewhere along the line.’
But what of John Rebus himself. as a man. a character and a copper'.’ ‘You get a picture in your mind's eye when you read the books of what he is going to be like and. like a lot of people. I thought that John Hannah was maybe a hit young.’ he says. 'But he has that worn look about him like he hasn't slept for two or three weeks. I think he comes across well and after all. at inspector level. you can get them as young as their early 3()s.’
But what of the loner and his hard drinking”? Is that a fair representation of our upstanding boys in blue'.’ ‘ln a police investigation such as a murder. the first 48 hours are crucial in getting as much information as you can] says Mutter. ‘When you‘ve broken that particular part of it and you’re being pointed in the right direction towards a suspect. you can enjoy a break. Police officers are part of society like everyone else. (ioittg for a drink is not a crime.‘
Rebus is broadcast on Scottish, Wed 26 Apr. Rebustours begins on Mon 1 May;
for information call 0131 555 3065. Ian
Rankin reads at Waterstone's, Glasgow, Wed 19 Apr.