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Tributes paid to 'Wasp Factory' author Iain Banks after he dies from cancer: 'He's dead, I'm crying in an empty house'


Bestselling crime writer Ian Rankin has led tributes to his late friend Ian Banks, author of The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road, who died yesterday aged 59 just two months after announcing he had terminal cancer.

Rankin said his friend had “great imagination” and could be described as a writing machine who “was doing a book a year - a sci-fi novel, then a straight novel, then a sci fi novel”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland Rankin praised his friend’s versatility as an author: "He could go off to science fiction conventions, he could go to comic shops and sign for people who were very excited to meet him and talk about this world that he created, this culture he created.

"But he could also go to traditional bookshops and talk to audiences, go to literary festivals, and he loved that he could do both of those."

Another fellow writer Ken MacLeod told BBC News:  “What Iain brought to his writing was himself. He brought a wonderful combination of the dark and the light side of life, and he explored them both without flinching.”

"He left us a very significant body of work both in mainstream literature and in science fiction. And he left a large gap in the Scottish literary scene as well as that of the wider English-speaking world."

Another close friend and author, Neil Gaiman, tweeted: "Iain Banks is dead. I'm crying in an empty house. A good man and a friend for almost 30 years."

Fife-born Banks broke the news of his gall bladder cancer last April with the words: “I am officially Very Poorly”.

He went on to document his experience of the disease in his blog. In his last update on 20 May he wrote that he was considering chemotherapy to prolong his life.

Rankin said this morning that Banks’ wife Adele had sent out an email yesterday warning friends about his sudden deterioration.

"Adele sent out an email yesterday evening to friends just to say on Tuesday he was being told he had a few months still and then suddenly on Wednesday there was a deterioration," Rankin said.

"There was still plenty to do and he was loving what life he had left. It's just one of the things with cancer, just when you're not looking, that's when it hits you in the face."

In a statement, Banks’ publisher Little Brown, said he was an irreplaceable part of the literary world.

“Banks has been one of the country's best-loved novelists for both his mainstream and science fiction books since the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory. Just three weeks ago he was presented with finished copies of his last novel, The Quarry, and enjoyed celebration parties with old friends and fans across the publishing world.

"Iain Banks's ability to combine the most fertile of imaginations with his own highly distinctive brand of gothic humour made him unique. He is an irreplaceable part of the literary world."

Banks had asked his publishers to bring forward the release date of The Quarry so he could see it on the shelves. Sadly he didn’t live to see that. The Quarry is due to hit bookshops in 10 days’ time.

The numerous other fellow authors to tribute to Banks on Twitter included John O'Farrell, Irvine Welsh, Warren Ellis and Deborah Beale.

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond tweeted: "One of Scotland's literary greats who always approached life with extraordinary vitality."

Banks was born in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1954. An only child, he was the son of an Admiralty officer and an  ex-professional ice skater. He studied English literature with philosophy and psychology at Stirling University.

In 1979 he moved to London where he lived in a flat above the Camden music pub, the Hope and Anchor, while working in a law company as a costings clerk. He wrote several science fiction short stories (collected in The State of the Art in 1991). But it was not until Macmillan bought and published The Wasp Factory in 1984 that he could finally give up the day job.