Friday, October 8, 2021

My hero / Iain Banks by Ian Rankin

Iain Banks in Edinburgh, 2007. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

My hero: Iain Banks by Ian Rankin

A year after his death, his friend says he will always remember Banks's almighty guffaw

Friday 13 June 2014


y fellow writer and occasional drinking companion Iain Menzies Banks died on 9 June 2013. When his cancer was diagnosed in the February of that year he emailed friends to share the news. The email was typical Iain – not at all downbeat or maudlin; almost jaunty, in fact.

He made sure that by the time word got out to the public at large, he and his partner Adele were outside the UK and away from the media glare, leaving some of us to meet at our spiritual home – the Abbotsford bar on Edinburgh's Rose Street – to shake our heads and mutter the usual well-meant cliches. Iain wouldn't have wanted to hear any of it, and when he eventually did join us for what turned out to be a last session together, we spoke mostly of other things, though he did joke about his jaundiced colouring, comparing himself to Grandpa Simpson.

The Iain of the Abbotsford is the one I'll remember, arching back his head to let loose a guffaw at some joke or comment, then running with the idea, his nostrils flaring at the scent of a story. There was always a childlike gleam in his eye, as if he relished the intricacies of the world while still seeking to make sense of them, and this is reflected in the variety and imaginative brio of his written work.

He went about his death the way he had lived his life – filling every waking moment to the brim: marrying Adele, revisiting favourite places and putting his hard-won green credentials to one side by purchasing a BMW in which to bomb around his beloved Scotland one last time.

He also found the time and energy to fire a few final broadsides at "the establishment" – his wit sharp, his rage palpable. For his memorial service, Iain's choice of closing song was Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir". People were supposed to file out of the packed room while it played, but I felt compelled to stick around, wishing Iain was next to me for a spot of air guitar and another of those life-affirming almighty guffaws.


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