Yesterday was a tough day among the readers and writers of Scotland and far beyond, as Iain Banks went public that he is in the final stages of gall bladder cancer and has been given only months to live.
It was a shocking announcement when it came and has taken some time to settle. So large and wide were the waves that emanated outwards after it was announced, that his website, the source of the personal letter from Iain, crashed under the weight of people clambering for more information.
It’s horrible to have to accept that in a few months we shall be mourning the death of one of Scotland’s most treasured writers, a man whose darkly humorous and brave new ideas in fiction captivated and challenged us all, shall be taken from us so early.
Our only grace is that we have time to say thanks for what he has given us, and let him know how much his name will be fondly remembered through the generations to come. His legacy is a huge one and Iain Banks will never be forgotten on these shores and far beyond.
On a more personal level, although I never got to meet him, I did attend several of his events at the Edinburgh Book Festival over the years. I was never one for queuing at book signings, and have only done so a couple of times in my life.
Those were for William McIlvanney where there was already a pre-existing mutual connection, and for Louise Rennison with my daughter who was really into her books (although she did blow me a kiss, which I’ll never forget!)
It was Iain’s personality that sold me on his books. The first time I saw him he bounced (literally) into the RBS Main Tent in Charlotte Square for the main evening event and gave us an hour of his time that seemed to last only a quarter of that. It was nowhere long enough because to hear him talk about his love of writing and his life in that context was enthralling.
My favourite of his books was THE BRIDGE. I was totally taken by the concept of using an iconic Scottish landmark with which to construct a novel around. It was a brilliant idea and took my imagination to a whole new place I never knew existed.
I remember it was the favourite book of all my reads that year while on holiday in Greece. That was the same year I came up with the idea for one of my own novellas, GREENER IS THE GRASS, but whether that was to do with the influence of reading Banks I’ll never know. I’d like to think so.
I’m appalled to admit I’ve never read THE WASP FACTORY. Needless to say, I’ll be getting hold of a copy shortly and putting that to right.
Scotland without Iain Banks just doesn’t seem right. I’d passively assumed like most other people, he had many years to go in his life and many, many more books in him. It doesn’t seem right that he’s going to be leaving us so soon. Having lived through a family member being diagnosed with terminal cancer and all that follows, I know a bit of what it’s like so my heart goes out to Iain’s entire family.
Among the best articles that were published yesterday was this one from Val McDermid: In Praise of Iain Banks, Storyteller Extraordinaire.
And if you want to leave a message of support for Iain, you can do so here.