The Fife-born, Edinburgh-based author says his most famous literary creation will “outlast” him, as he simply could not bring himself to write the death of his maverick Capital detective.
Appearing on the Writing Community Chat Show podcast, Rankin said: “Rebus was built for one book only and he was killed at the end of the first draft of the first Rebus book.
“I had no notion of doing a series until my editor cajoled me into it by saying he liked the character.
“Now he is retired, he is old, he’s got health problems, he can’t climb stairs. There is only so much I can do with him now. He’s got inbuilt decrepitude so I don’t know how many more books I can realistically write.”
He continued: “I’m not going to kill him, he’s not going to die, I can’t imagine it.
“I have had this conversation with other British crime writers about what you do with a long-running character.
“The thing is that, unlike the author, a good character doesn’t die. People are still writing about Poirot, people are still writing about James Bond, people are still writing about Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes.
“So after I pop my clogs there’s nothing to stop Rebus being brought back.”
Any writer who does continue the Inspector Rebus series can expect to make a mint.
Last year, Rankin revealed how much money he earns from his novels today – and what he was paid for his first book.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, the Fife-born, the 60-year-old said he was paid just £500 for his first book, The Flood, in 1986.
These days, however, he is earning significantly more.
Rankin is the most widely-read crime novelist in the UK, with worldwide sales of more than 30 million for his Inspector Rebus novels.
In October, he published his 24th Rebus novel, A Song For The Dark Times, and said books featuring his most famous literary creation now “make me a seven-figure sum”.