Crime author Ian Rankin has said that he was rejected five times by publishers for his first ‘Inspector Rebus’ novel before he eventually found success, on the 30th anniversary of the debut of his most famous character.

The 57 year old novelist is marking 30 years of his much-loved novel series featuring Inspector John Rebus, which has reached 21 instalments since the first book, ‘Knots and Crosses’, was published back in 1987 by Bodley Head. The tough, no-nonsense policeman went on to become one of the most popular characters in the crime novel genre.

However, it wasn’t easy getting noticed at the beginning for Rankin, as he reached out to publishers but got knocked back on a number of occasions.

Ian RankinIan Rankin revealed his first 'Rebus' novel was rejected five times

Now, at a weekend of events including an exhibition in Edinburgh called Rebusfest that celebrates the character, Rankin has said that his favourite exhibit on display is a letter from his agent “naming and shaming” the five publishers who turned him down at the start of his career.

“I didn't read much crime fiction, I just got the idea for a story when I was 24 years old and I had to write the story,” he told BBC Scotland this week. “I had an agent and she sent the book to six, mainly London, publishers and five immediately turned it down.

“In the letter I have got here at the exhibition she is waiting to hear from the sixth and thank goodness they took it. If they hadn't then ‘Knots and Crosses’ would have gone into the bottom drawer and stayed there and Rebus would have gone in to the bottom drawer as well.”

Furthermore, Rankin revealed that Rebus was actually quite lucky to get a sequel novel, as he had originally planned to kill the character off.

The original script for ‘Knots and Crosses’, which he typed in his student flat while working towards a PhD at the age of 24, is also a part of the exhibition.

More: Crime writer Ian Rankin speaks of influence of horror writer James Herbert, who has died aged 69 [archive]