Iain Banks’ final interview reveals a true original

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IN 1984, relatively unknown writer Iain Banks seemed to emerge out of nowhere with a tome that left critics dishing out superlatives galore: The Wasp Factory. More than 20 books later, and he was still one of the most original novelists of his generation.

In Iain Banks: Raw Spirit - A Review Show Special recorded shortly before his death on June 9, the late Dunfermline-born writer talks to Kirsty Wark about his life, his career, and how he coped with the news he discovered earlier this year.

Back in the era of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Ghostbusters, the great Scot proved he could tell an extraordinary tale. His yarn about Frank, a 16-year-old who lived with his father outside a remote Scottish village, helped turn that debut novel into one of the most talked-about of the Eighties.

In the years that followed he proved, with a string of superb follows-ups, that it was no fluke. Walking on Glass a year later, and The Bridge in 1986 were also powerful works.

They paved the way for Consider Phlebas, the first of his sci-fi novels, released under the name Iain M Banks, in which he introduced the dazzling world of the Culture. He then alternated between general fiction, with the likes of Canal Dreams, and imaginative fantasy work such as The Player of Games.

The Crow Road in 1992 was one of his finest works, and was also turned into a superb TV drama, while cracking page-turner Complicity is his only novel to get the big-screen treatment.

For years, Banks spent six months enjoying himself, driving fast cars and living life to the full, and the rest of the year he wrote like a demon, creating more works for his expanding fan base.

However, in January this year, he developed a sore back and thought it was because he ha been ‘crouched over a keyboard all day’.

A few weeks later the symptoms persisted, so he went to his GP, who spotted he had jaundice.

Following blood tests, an ultrasound scan and a CT scan, by the start of March, Banks realised how serious things were.

Cancer started in his gall bladder, infected his liver, and within months it claimed his life.

In this moving interview, he talks about his final novel, The Quarry. It centres on an 18-year-old boy with possible Asperger’s syndrome, and his dad, who, by sheer coincidence, is a dying cancer patient.

TV PICKS

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Five, 9pm

GREAT TV is made up of water-cooler moments, those scenes that everyone talks about the following day in the office during a break.

However, rarely is a water cooler itself the centre of the drama. Naturally that got the makers of CSI thinking, and they came up with this story involving Becca, the old classmate of assistant medical examiner David Phillips.

He’s been persuaded by his very pregnant wife to go to his high school reunion, despite the fact that much of his time at school he felt invisible. Alas, when a dead Becca is found bleeding into a water cooler, the CSIs are called to investigate. We discover she was the ‘class queen’ at school, and also organised the reunion. Sanders guesses the killer may have washed their hands in a bubble mix, so everyone who caught a bubble could be carrying traces of the killer. Another key piece of evidence is revealed via a fragment of broken photocopier glass. Starring Ted Danson, right.

Frankie

BBC One, 9pm

IN the last in the series, Frankie is frustrated when Nicky, a patient suffering from lupus is told she is fit to work and has her benefits cut. Dr Evans’ solution is to prescribe her steroids so she can get through a shift at the supermarket, but when Frankie sees that Nicky’s health is deteriorating, she tries to take a different approach. And as if a one-woman crusade against benefit cuts wasn’t enough, Frankie also gets to save the day when a vicious dog attack brings Andy and Ian’s romantic rivalry to a head.

Happy Endings

E4, 10pm

WHEN Happy Endings first launched, many dismissed it as a blatant attempt to be the new Friends. Unfortunately, not enough viewers stuck around to discover that the sitcom doesn’t need to copy previous hits and has a unique humour and terrific cast of its own. Despite rave reviews, the show was recently cancelled. Fortunately, we have a whole third season to get through before we reach that unhappy ending, starting with this opening episode. Dave and Alex are back together, but are trying to keep their relationship casual - hmm.