‘Many people felt and I can understand why that the book was unadaptable. but in the end the multiplicity of strands gave me the ability to browse through the book and it was quite a lot easier than I imagined.‘ says Bryan Elsley. who wrote the screenplay. ‘Amongst the many things the book is about. it’s a reasonably simple story of that transition from boyhood to manhood. that period when a young guy learns to take perspective on the world.’

Making that transition is Prentice. a Glasgow University student busy failing his finals. feuding with his father and generally alienating those around him. This adolescent angst is symbolised by the fact he shows up for his grandmother’s funeral wearing a Nirvana T-shirt.

Prentice’s big problem is that he reckons there mttst be a key to the meaning of life somewhere. if only he could find the damn thing. Banks’s novel is littered with references to cosmology (Prentice’s cousin is an astronomer) and the ancient geological rock formations we call Scotland. Prentice chooses to see these as evidence of a grand design. possibly even a god. His father. Kenneth played by Bill Paterson —- is an evangelical atheist who draws a very different conclusion: we are mere specks ofdust in a universe governed solely by the laws of physics.

Prentice’s quest for meaning is largely triggered by the death of

his friend Darren. a flamboyant artist who kills himself before his talent can be realised. The desire to make sense of Darrcn’s death brings the conflict between Prentice and his ultra-rational father to a head.

McFadden. who until recently played Gary in Scottish Television’s High Road. plays the character’s immaturity convincingly. without ever letting him appear brattish. It’s essential that we like Prentice even when he does daft things - the story is told through his words. It would be almost impossible not to warm to McFadden. who has the open-faced look of an innocent abroad.

Even though Prentice is in the huff with his father. there are other reasons to travel home to Lochgair in Argyll where the extended and eccentric Mcl-loan clan is based. The serial makes good use of the beautiful locations. but biscuit-tin sunsets have been avoided

It 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.

in favour of a rather more realistic. dreich tone. The West Highlands are portrayed as a place where people live and work. rather than simply a photo-opportunity.

The Mel-loan family has had its share of tragedy. including the death of Kenneth’s sister Fiona and the disappearance some years previously of his brother Rory. played by a wild-haired Peter Capaldi. When Prentice stutnbles on some old papers belonging to Rory. a professional travel writer and dope-smoker. he becomes fascinated by the events leading up to his uncle’s disappearance.

In the novel. the character of Rory comes alive to Prentice through his writing. but television’s visual requirements mean that he has to appear in person. He is played as a ghost only Prentice can see. but thankfully the danger of it deteriorating into a Randall And Hopkirk Deceased caper has been avoided.

Apart from altering some of the characters and omitting others. the biggest change in switching from page to screen is with the time setting. Banks‘s book was published in l‘)‘)2 and was almost certainly written in the final month of Margaret Thatcher’s Prime Ministerial reign. Throughout the novel there is a strong anti-Tory sentiment. and at least part of Prentice’s disenchantment relates to a sense of political alienation. This theme is pretty much ditched for TV.

Elsley is currently working on an adaptation of C’onrp/ieity. Banks’s follow-up to The Crow Road. a sex-and-violence drenched story about a corrupt journalist uncovering corruption. Though he describes Banks as ‘the quintessential end-of—the-80s writer". Elsley has also chosen to make the setting for Comp/{city contemporary. which he says caused far more problems than with The Crow Road.

‘I had to edge away from some of those political aspects.’ he says of the TV drama. ‘lt’s not a loss. just an adapting problem. Religion. growing up and the romance of the family I think. that’s enough.’

The C row Road begins on Mon 4 Nov on BBC 2.


Road Signs

Meet the characters behind the The Crow Road.

Prentice (Joseph McFadden) He’s a sensitive soul trying to find his place in the world. Not averse to looking in the bottom of a pint glass and, like many lain Banks characters. partial to the odd joint. Prentice is a swooning romantic who falls madly in love with a h distant cousin. but ends up in bed with his . \ auntie Janice instead. Oops. Joe McFadden is an ascendant star. having risen to prominence in Small Faces and. until last week. was a High Road regular. He now .. 1 " '- models Paul Smith suits instead. ' ' A

Ashley (Valerie Edmond) Childhood friend of Prentice. She’s attractive. she’s intelligent. she’s got a well-paid job but it takes him an awful long time to realise he fancies her. despite early stirrings during Hogmanay kisses. etc. Ashley likes a drink too. but manages to hold down a career as a computer programmer. First major screen role for Glaswegian actress Valerie Edmond who does a good job of playing sexy without resorting to dumb and flirty.

Kenneth (Bill Paterson) To everyone apart from Prentice. he appears to be the perfect father. But as an arch-rationalist and life-long t socialist he loses radio contact with his son 1'

when he develops religious leanings. Bill Paterson is a class act whose credits include the local radio DJ in Bill Forsyth’s Comfort And Joy and. more recently. a maverick tax inspector in The Ghosthusters 0f East Finch/e):

Rory (Peter Capaldi) Prentice’s uncle has been

missing for seven years; he set out for Lochgair

on his motorcycle and never arrived. Kenneth

has reason to believe he is still alive but

Prentice is not so sure. As an old hippie who

travelled around lndia. Uncle Rory is a spiritual slacker. Peter Capaldi starred in his own movie Soft Top, Hard Shoulder and won an Oscar for his short film. Franz Kafka is It is A Wonderful Life.

lewis (Dougray Scott) Cooler and better looking than his younger brother Prentice. Lewis is a stand- up comedian who hasjust been booked on a support slot with Lee and Herring. Basically he gets on with his wee brother. but that doesn’t prevent him from whisking the object of Prentice’s obsession the fair Verity from under his nose. He then impregnates her for good measure.

Verity (Simone Bendix) When Prentice sees Verity at his grandmother’s funeral, he falls head-over—heels for

her blonde charms. When he

discovers she wears suspenders that doesn’t help his concentration much either. Promisingly. she flirts

outrageously with Prentice but ends up in

bed with Lewis instead. j

The List l-l4 Nov l99617