It had to happen — Iain Banks’s classic novel The Crow Road has been transformed for television. Starring rising Scottish star Joseph McFadden, it should warm the cockles of a nation’s heart, writes Eddie Gibb.
15 The List l-l4 Nov I996
ike Betty Blue movie posters and REM albums. there are a handful of hooks which tend to be well represented in student bedrooms. Alongside the paperbacks by Stephen King and Hunter S. Thompson (boys) or Maya Angelou (girls). it’s a reasonable bet you will find something by Scottish writer Iain Banks (both sexes).
For a fortysomething writer with a beard. Banks has acquired a big cult following among a younger generation that appreciates the pop culture references he stuffs his books with.
If Prentice McHoan. the young hero of The Crow Road, wasn’t already a character in a Banks novel, he would probably be reading them instead. Played by Small Faces star Joseph McFadden in the forthcoming television serial based on the book, Prentice is the archetypal student — an air of doomed romanticism hangs over him as he'moochcs around Glasgow’s West End in a thrift shop overcoat. Naturally he spends very little time in the library.
Given that Banks’s readers are also likely to be big TV watchers and cinema-goers. and the fact he sells books by the lorryload. it‘s
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surprising no one has attempted to adapt one of his books for the screen before. Well. that’s not quite true —- there have been a few attempts, but until BBC Scotland started shooting The Crow Road around Tarbert and the bonnie. bonnie banks of Loch Fyne earlier this year. no one had actually succeeded.
Though many books end up on screen in some form or other. they tend to be either classics from Austen or Hardy which are dimly remembered from English Lit classes, or ones that nobody seems to have heard of. With The Crow Road, as with Trainspotting. it is likely that a higher proportion of viewers will be familiar with the source material and each one will have an opinion on how faithfully the book is adapted. However. you don’t have to be familiar with the hook to enjoy the four-pan serial.
Weighing in at an epic 500 pages with a story spanning half a century, The Crow Road might be regarded as the toughest of Banks’s novels to turn into a decent screenplay. But as it turns out, the story is a genre familiar to television — the family saga. The main difficulty is the way Banks structured his novel, as a series of complicated ﬂashbacks and interwoven sub-plots.