ONE is a hard-drinking, no-nonsense super sleuth who scours the streets of Auld Reekie for crimes and misdemeanours; the other was the unassuming face behind the greatest rock'n'roll band to grace the planet.

But Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin has revealed that John Rebus, the star of 15 novels set in the grimy underbelly of the nation's capital, may have more to do with the Rolling Stones than any detective could have surmised.

The award-winning novelist admits during a new Radio 4 series exploring the relationships between crime writers and their favourite music that he took some of his inspiration for the unruly inspector from the "sixth Stone", Ian Stewart.

Stewart, from the fishing village of Pittenweem in the East Neuk of Fife, was a founding member of the band and is credited with influencing their sound with his boogie-woogie piano style. But, less appealing on the eye than the hip-swivelling Mick Jagger and cohorts, he was pulled from the line-up before they hit the big time.

"He had this big Scottish chiselled face, so the manager [Andrew Loog Oldham] said you've got to get rid of him, " said Rankin, who is presenting the three-part series Music To Die For. "The Stones were loathe to kick him out, so he became their road manager. He was a bit of an outsider looking in and that's exactly how Rebus feels - he's part of the police but he's on the edge and looking in all the time. And they're both Fifers."

With Rebus ageing in real time throughout the series of novels, he - unlike the unstoppable Stones - will soon consider retirement from St Leonard's police station. It can only be guessed whether Stewart would have followed suit. Though still playing on records and gigging with the group till the end, he died of a heart attack in 1985, aged 47.

Rankin said he was keen to point out the links between the sleuth and his fellow Fifer, but added that Stewart, unlike Rebus, would rarely have been found propping up the bar.

"I think it's an interesting case that he's been written out of history and yet he was an original member of the band, " he said. "He was so un-rock'n'roll, after a concert he would go and play golf - not what you're supposed to do when you're part of the satanic majesties."

Family and friends of Stewart still live in Pittenweem, a town with a population of 2000. Joyce Laing, who chairs the annual Pittenweem Arts Festival, said preparations were under way to pay tribute to his life later this year.

"He's still very much remembered here as a local talent, " she said. "It's pretty unusual for such a small place and it seems so remote from something like the Rolling Stones. We are looking for a tribute band and are hoping to play to a crowd of around 1000 people."

The connection will surprise Rankin's cult following. Among those now likely to be swamped by tie-dyed Stones' pilgrims could be the regulars at Rebus's famous watering hole, The Oxford Bar, in Edinburgh's New Town. But manager Harry Curran, who Rankin describes in the books as "the grumpiest barman in the world", was not overly impressed with the inspector's new-found rock credentials.

"I've never heard of Ian Stewart and I don't know where Rankin picks these things up. I think he just sits in the pub and makes up these stories. Some of us here are younger than the Rolling Stones, but not by much."

Music To Die For is broadcast on Radio 4 on Saturday at 10.30am.

Rebus, starring Ken Stott, is on Scottish at 9pm tomorrow


THE FACTS Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin has linked his most famous character, Inspector John Rebus, with the "sixth Rolling Stone", Ian Stewart.

BACKGROUND Rebus, while not adverse to music and the occasional tipple, is better known for his stubborn detemination to uncover devilish crimes in the capital than for gigging with the satanic majesties.


www. ianrankin. net The official site for the Rebus novels and their author.