Novelist Iain Banks announces he has terminal cancer
Author of 'The Wasp Factory' released statement this morning on state of health
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Wednesday 03 April 2013
Acclaimed novelist Iain Banks has left the literary world and legions of fans in shock after revealing he has terminal cancer and may just have months to live.
The Scottish writer, whose books include The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road, announced the news of his late stage cancer of the gall bladder in an emotional personal statement that was tinged with black humour. It started: “I am officially Very Poorly”.
The Quarry, which has been delivered to the publisher and is being fast-tracked for publication, looks like it “will be my last” book, he said.
Banks sent an email to his close friends with the news last month. Ken MacLeod, a science fiction writer who has known Banks “for a long time,” told The Independent: “It was a complete shock; it came totally out of the blue.”
He has seen Banks since learning the news. “Iain has that attitude of what he called ‘stoic cheerfulness’ in his email. It obviously gets to him, but for most of the time he has a very commendable equilibrium and equanimity.”
The author, 59, built up a huge following writing mainstream fiction as Iain Banks, as well as science fiction using Iain M Banks.
Mr MacLeod said: “There’s nobody else who’s professionally active at the moment who has so consistently written very well received mainstream novels and at the same time likewise well received unabashed genre science fiction.”
“He’s very well liked in the literary and science fiction worlds. He’s great company and kind hearted and generous with it,” he added.
Fellow authors and fans posted messages of support on social networks as well as on the Friends of Iain Banks site that went online in the morning. Edinburgh crime writer Ian Rankin called the news “just awful”.
Science-fiction writer William Gibson wrote he was “speechless as the morning’s dreadful news” while Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh said: “Very, very sad to hear this. Amazing writer and excellent guy.”
Little, Brown Book Group has published all of the author’s work since the paperback version of his debut novel The Wasp Factory. Chief executive Ursula Mackenzie called it a “terrible shock for the whole company”.
She continued: “Everyone who has ever come into contact with Iain shares our shock and sadness. Iain is a man whose vibrancy, energy and creativity seemed so unstoppable.”
In January, Banks thought a sore back was due to time spent “crouched over a keyboard all day” writing his new novel, yet a series of tests revealed the “grisly truth” that he has cancer last month.
“The bottom line, now, I'm afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I'm expected to live for 'several months' and it’s extremely unlikely I'll live beyond a year,” he wrote.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister and a friend of Banks, called him a “remarkable writer who has made a lasting contribution to Scottish literature and culture, inspiring and enthralling readers for 30 years”.
Banks is currently on honeymoon after he asked partner Adele Hartley “if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow” adding “sorry but we find ghoulish humour helps”.
“We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us,” he said. He has withdrawn from all planned public engagements.
Iain Banks, who was born in Dunfermline in 1954, had a “very happy childhood”. He says that he acquired a nautical gait from his father, an officer in the Admiralty, and his balance from his mother, a professional ice skater.
In 1984, at the age of 30, he published his first book The Wasp Factory. The Quarry, published this year, will be his 27th novel writing as Iain Banks or Iain M Banks, the name he uses for his science-fiction writing, which includes the acclaimed Culture series.
Banks’s deeply held political views saw him tear up his passport after the invasion of Iraq and he has also publicly revealed his support for Scottish independence. He is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.
His Full Statement
I am officially Very Poorly. After a couple of surgical procedures, I am gradually recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, but that – it turns out – is the least of my problems.
I first thought something might be wrong when I developed a sore back in late January, but put this down to the fact I’d started writing at the beginning of the month and so was crouched over a keyboard all day. When it hadn’t gone away by mid-February, I went to my GP, who spotted that I had jaundice. Blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan revealed the full extent of the grisly truth by the start of March.
I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.
The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late-stage gall bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for “several months” and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.
As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner, Adele, if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour helps). By the time this goes out we’ll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile, my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.
There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However, that is still something we’re balancing the pros and cons of, and anyway it is out of the question until my jaundice has further and significantly reduced.
Lastly, I’d like to add that from my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved – and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed – has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We’re all just sorry the outcome hasn’t been more cheerful.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings Q&A: Why would the cockpit door have been locked and would there have been no way to get in?
- 2 Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
- 3 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 4 Germanwings crash: Descent may have been 'deliberate, suicidal choice' by pilot, claims experts
- 5 Woman held in psychiatric ward after (correctly) saying Obama follows her on Twitter
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
Jeremy Clarkson says it 'isn't hard' to create another Top Gear
Mark Gatiss on playing 'prince of darkness' Peter Mandelson in Channel 4's Coalition
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Zayn Malik quits 1D: One Direction fans compare Perrie Edwards to Yoko Ono
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Council tenant wins right not to be sent to Milton Keynes