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The Brentford Mercury

An Interview with Robert Rankin

Robert Rankin nabbed at an art exhibition

by Michael Carroll


Pope Joan

"Ah." Said Mr. Rankin. "Finn Mac Cool's in They Came and Ate Us."

A mild chorus of "Uh oh"s erupted from the three of us.

"He's the present king of Ireland in the year 1994. Ireland has a monarchy and Finn is back. It's the only independent country in the world, Ireland is."

I asked Mr. Rankin if he finds it much of a problem that the Brentford books are so... so... what's the word?


Yeah, Parochial. Does he find that's a problem in the states and other markets?

"Yeah, they won't touch them in America. They won't have anything to do with them at all. They say nobody will understand them. Another reason is slang. People say things like `Kick the bucket'. That means nothing to Americans. They are things that you would use every day - probably things that I wouldn't understand. But Americans - they're like extraterrestrials. They have no common consciousness with us. We have been so brought up on Americana, and American imported TV, we know what `Fuck you, asshole' means. But they don't know what the hell we are. We're this mysterious little island somewhere, where we've got a queen, and we've got this thing called history that they haven't got.

"I sold Armageddon to America - the first book I've sold to America. I thought they'd go a storm on it. Paid me in buttons. But... Warner Brothers! Ha Hah! Come on in, Joe Dante!"

I mentioned that it'll be interesting to see how they'll change it for the American market.

"Well," Rankin said, "if you read Armageddon, you must come to the conclusion that no power on Earth could ever make a movie out of it. Who's going to play Jesus Christ's twin sister? Written out of the New Testament because her brother had artistic control - a vehicle for his stardom. Nobody's going to buy this! The Pope will excommunicate me!"

It was then suggested that it was all the more reason to put something like that in - notoriety works well for authors.

"There's a female Pope - Pope Joan. You see, in the year 2050, television stations are run by the three major religions, so all the religious shows are things like game shows. The Dalai Lama -who runs Buddavision - he has a show called `Nemesis' where whether the contestants get the questions right or wrong they inevitably die at the end spectacularly! It's the best-selling show on the telly. People aren't keen to appear."

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