#Novel Pairing - Rather be the Devil
Great books deserve great wine. And what’s a book club without a bottle or three? Every month Damian Barr, author and Sunday Times Drinks Critic, suggests surprising and delicious #NovelPairings: Would Bridget Jones choose Chardonnay now? Which Champagne does James Bond prefer? How tipsy is Ulysses? Ian Rankin’s Detective Rebus has been solving crimes in his own gruff style for 30 years. Rather Be the Devil, the latest novel, sees Rebus descend into Edinburgh’s underworld. It’s not the booziest of the Rebus books — Rebus is older and retired and on a ‘health kick’. But it’s still Edinburgh… Notably, Irn Bru is mentioned only once. James Franklin from Corney & Barrow shortlists three #NovelPairings and joins Ian Rankin and Damian Barr for a special Salon.
'There’s more happening in Edinburgh than anyone knows'. says Detective Sergeant John Rebus in Knots & Crosses, the first Rebus novel. In the shadow of the famous fairy-tale castle and behind those handsome stone facades, criminals lurk.
'I wanted to show the city’s dark side', says Rankin on-stage at our special Book & Bottle Salon at Omeara in Bermondsey. 'I was the first but now I’ve done umpteen novels and tartan noir is a genre. It’s getting hard to find a bit of Edinburgh where I’ve not set a crime.'
Rebus is 'not the easiest of men to like'. He’s troubled by something that happened when he was in the SAS and suffers black-outs. He runs up traffic fines and generally breaks rules whenever it suits: 'He resented having to play the part of a normal human animal.' He’s a maverick you love to read about but would hate to work with.
Rather Be the Devil, sees a now retired Rebus with serious health worries but still hot on the trail of a cold case - the strangling of glamorous Maria Turquand in 1978 in the Caledonian Hotel. Meanwhile, Scotland wrestles with independence and Edinburgh’s underworld faces war between Darryl Christie and Rebus’s beloved nemesis Big Ger Cafferty. It bursts with tension!
'That’s what I wanted to explore,' says Franklin. The novel is full of odd partnerships that shouldn’t work but do: Malcolm Fox and Siobhan Clarke, Cafferty and Christie etc. The Lane Gathering Semillon/Sauvignon successfully blends rich Semillon and flinty sauvignon.
Having lived in Southern France and spent student summers at Chateau Brandeau, Rankin knows his wine: 'I know Bordeaux but not much about other places. By the way, you’ve got to get naked treading grapes because pretty soon the juice comes up to your neck.'
Indeed! So, what of Franklin’s first potential #NovelPairing?
'Siobhan would definitely love this,' says Rankin. I also love this unlikely mix: soft nose then mineral tough but I was in a distinct minority at our Salon.
'This second wine is really unusual,' says James. 'Salterio Mencía DO Bierzo Adegas Galegas 2015 is not quite the wine underworld but it’s certainly a secret. Mencía grapes are high in anthocyanin creating this striking red-violet and it’s really complex.'
Mencía is a completely new grape to me! I smelled old-fashioned Blackjack sweets and spiciness as it warmed. 'Rebus could really get into this,' laughs Rankin. 'He’s not a wine-drinker but this has Bier in the name.'
'Because you know Bordeaux, I had to pick at least one French', says Franklin. 'Bordeaux was too obvious, so I’ve gone to Madiran.The main grape in Seigneurie de Crouseilles Chateau de Crouseilles AOC Madiran 2012 is Tannat.'
'Loving the smokiness', says Rankin. 'It’s definitely rougher the edges than Bordeaux but I like that. It’s chewy.' I found it a bit much, but this was easily the favourite wine with our audience. So, which is the winner?
'They all work', says Rankin. 'Just as all the characters are some part of me. Siobhan would want the white and I’d pick the Madiran, but Rebus would definitely down the Mencía - especially as it’s the cheapest!'
Case solved: Salterio Mencía DO Bierzo Adegas Galegas 2015 is our #NovelPairing!
B is for Beer (unspecified)
When Rebus talks his way into the home of retired rock star Bruce Collier he is offered beer or coffee. Rebus chooses coffee and Collier choose beer, which he swaps for White Wine when Rebus starts asking questions.
More unspecified beer is drunk by Craw Shand who is ‘not a complete idiot despite what everybody seemed to think’. He drinks beers rather than his usual ‘wine’ to stay sharp – we can’t say why because #spoilers.
C is for Champagne (*unspecified)
Not a single bottle is cracked in the whole book but it’s the subject of one of the best jokes when Rebus makes enquires at the insalubrious Pirate:
'"Bottle of your best champagne, please," Rebus said.
"If ye want fizz we’ve got cider and lager."
"Both of them fine substitutes."'
D is for Devil’s Dram
Name of the night club and bar owned by Darryl Christie. Siobhan drinks five too many G&Ts here one night. The Devil’s Dram is Scottish slang name for the share of a whisky that evaporates from each barrel. Sometimes also called the Angel’s Share.
G is for Gin and Tonic
The gin isn’t specified but we think Siobhan would drink Edinburgh Gin. She has it at the Oxford Arms and also knocks quite a few back at the Devi’s Dram nightclub and bar.
H is for a Half Pint (shicking!)
Which Rebus is nursing at the Oxford Arms, his favourite pub. Everyone is flabbergasted to see him drink anything less than multiple pints.
H is for a Half-Empty Bottle of Wine (not specified)
This is sitting on the table when Rebus and Deborah go back to his place after their romantic dinner discussing an unsolved murder dinner at the Caledonian Hotel. He eyes it while working out which of his very many jazz LPs to play.
I is for IPA – India Pale Ale (unspecified)
When Rebus has finally had enough of the wretched low alcohol beer he plumps for a half pint of purest IPA in the Oxford Bar, his sanctuary.
L is for Low-Alcohol Beer (unspecified)
Rebus is on a health kick and chooses the lighter option for his beer, aware of the ridicule it will garner: '"Tastes like hell but it’s got to be doing me good."'
M is for Moët (et Chandon)
One of the very few specific brands named in the book, this champagne is what Rebus expect he’ll find one of his suspects sipping when he finally gains access to his alleged lair….
M is for Malt (as in 'Single')
Ordered by Big Ger Cafferty but we can’t say when or where for fear of spoilers but he’s a man who knows what he wants and even if it’s just a bottle of whisky he’ll stop at nothing to get it. You wouldn’t want to let Big Ger Cafferty down…
R is for Red Wine (not specified)
Mentioned on the very first page of the novel. Rebus is out for dinner with pathologist Deborah Quant at the Caledonian Hotel when he suddenly remembers a murder took place there years ago.
'"And they say romance is dead," Deborah Quant paused over her steak.'
The victim was glamorous Maria Turquand and 40 years later her murderer will finally be revealed (or will they?).
‘Bottles of red wine’ are also consumed with abandon by the hen party in Giuliano’s opposite the Playhouse Theatre where Clarke and Fox go for dinner.
W is for Whisky (unspecified)
Almost a whole bottle of which was downed by one of the victims in the book. But by choice?
John Turquand, husband of the murdered Maria, serves whisky from a crystal decanter in the library of his rather grand home. Only the whisky isn’t as grand as the house (which itself isn’t as grand as it first appears).
W is for White Wine (unspecified)
When Rebus talks his way into the home of retired rock star Bruce Collier he is offered beer or coffee. Rebus chooses Coffee and Collier choose beer, which he then swaps for White Wine.
White wine is also the chosen drink of the business-like Sheila Graham, Malcom’ Fox’s new colleague. Fox, famously, doesn’t drink:
'"I was a drinker right up until the day I stopped,"
"You know Jekyll and Hyde? That was me with alcohol."'
Photo © Tania Dolvers