AUTHOR Ian Rankin has admitted he is still unable to start reading the final book penned by the late Iain Banks.
He told a poignant tribute event to the much-loved novelist at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that he had a copy of The Quarry sitting on his bedside table ever since being presented with it by Banks’ widow Adele.
But he admitted he was still too upset to start reading it as it would be final recognition that he had lost his close friend, who died of gall bladder cancer, aged 59, on 9 June. His final book was published just a few weeks later.
Rankin was joined by two fellow Fife writers and friends of Banks, Val McDermid and Ken Macleod, at the sold-out event.
It also featured surprise appearances from actress Valerie Edmond, who shot to fame with a starring role in the TV adaptation of The Crow Road, one of Banks’ best-known novels, and read two excerpts of Banks’ work, and graphic novelist writer Neil Gaiman, who broke off from a book signing session to recall a drunken jape from the Scot at a science fiction convention.
Rankin recalled Banks love of music, his sense of humour and passion about politics at the festival event, which organisers originally hoped that the Dunfermline-born author would be well enough to attend.
He had announced in early April that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and passed away just two months later.
Banks, who lived latterly in North Queensferry, released the announcement that he was ill from his honeymoon after asking his long-term partner Adele to marry him after finding out he had just months to live.
Rankin, speaking after a reading by Edmond from The Quarry, said: “We had a lovely publication day party for him in North Queensferry. The only person missing was Iain.
“Adele treated us to champagne, it was a gorgeous hot day and we just sat in the sun, and she handed us a copy of the book at the end of the day.
“I’ve still got it sitting beside my bed and I’ve still not opened it up. As long as I don’t read it it is like he is still there. That is still waiting. I can’t read it.”
Macleod, a sci-fi writer, told the Charlotte Square audience: “One of the things Iain and I liked to say to aspiring writers - just to crush them - was that before you can write anything publishable you have to write a million words. If we wanted to crush them further we would tell them a million words of crap.
“Iain got that out of his system very early on by writing a novel that is unpublished and will never be published, I hope, for the sake of his reputation.”
Asked to provide an abiding memory of Banks, McDermid - who described him as an “anti-sexist” - said: “It was always just the richness of his imagination and the generosity that he shared it with us.
“Whenever a conversation started with him, it would always go somewhere else very quickly, and in lots of different directions. You never had a boring minute in his company.”
The event ended with a video clip from Banks’ final interview with broadcaster Kirsty Wark, recorded shortly before his death.