Influences – Iain Banks

I went through a period in my twenties when every new author I read seemed to be called Ian or Iain.

At that time I was working through the back catalogues of Messrs Banks, Rankin & McEwan.

While I enjoy reading all three, Iain Banks (with or without the M) is the one who had the biggest influence on my work.

A sprawling family drama and a tragi-comic rock bio-pic.

Banks came to public attention with his debut The Wasp Factory, thrilling and disgusting the reading public in equal measure if reviews from the time are anything to go by.

But it was his later works that really had the biggest impact on my writing.

For most people, his masterpiece is The Crow Road, a sprawling family drama about the McHoan family and their various secrets, conflicts and mysteries.

Tackling themes such as faith, love and the ties and conflicts between fathers, sons and brothers, its main character is twenty-something Prentice who is trying to find out what happened to his Uncle Rory, while railing against the strict atheism of his father and trying to get his end away with the lovey Verity.

One of the techniques that Banks uses throughout his work is splitting his narrative over multiple time-lines, so some parts of Crow Road are told from Prentice’s point of view in the modern era, while others are told from his father’s point of view at various times in his life.

These separate timelines are knitted together towards the climax to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

While The Crow Road is an outstanding read, it’s not my favourite Banks book.

That particular honour goes to Espedair Street, a shorter work that’s part fictional rock-n-roll bio-pic, part awkward coming of age story.

The protagonist of Espedair Street is the aptly named Daniel Weir, aka Weird, another outsider looking for love while trying to understand his place in the world, and his role in the unfortunate events that led to the break up of his band.

Bank’s themes of family secrets, unsolved mysteries and his reflection on place and its effects on the protagonists were big influences on the type of stories I wanted to write, and lie at the roots of the storylines of my debut novel Badlands.

Banks died in 2013 but his works live on. The Crow Road and Espedair Street still take pride of place on my bookshelves to this day.

Top 5 Recommended Reads – Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks

1. Espedair Street

2. The Crow Road

3. Raw Spirit (A Non-fiction tour around the whisky distilleries of Scotland)

4. Consider Phlebas

5. Wasp Factory

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