12 THE LIST '3
Just as he was launching into his new novel, the world spun into crisis. Now, says IAIN BANKS, the influence of 11 September is unavoidable. Words: Brian Donaldson
hristmas. \‘l'imbledon. Scottish football
llopping in liurope. An Iain Banks noyel. All
things that you can rely on occurring on an annual basis. lixcept in 200]. the man sci-fr buffs call M took a break (or sabbatical. 01' year out). Since his l983 blitzkrieg of a debut with The ll'usp l-iu'rmy. lain Menzies Banks has published a yearly mix of ‘mainstream. popular" works such as the screen- friendly ('mnplir‘ity and The Crow Road. and the more difficult. sci-li’ netherworlds of (‘mrsirlr'r I’ll/chm and [zirr‘r's's'imr
So. how appropriate that in the year made famous by Arthur (‘ (‘larke. that Scotland‘s brightest sci—li star should put his feet tip and bask in a reputation he has built from the early days of wild. speccy beardy- dom to the more dignilied. speccy close-cut hirsuteness of today. Was it a symbolic act in honour of the man sci-1i buffs don’t call (‘1’
‘l was feeling a bit tired which I'm ashamed to admit because writing‘s really quite a light workload] he admits unsymlmlically. ‘.»\nd I’d come to the end of a second four-year four-book deal in a row and the last of those books. Look to Him/wan]. was quite hard to write. l‘d dropped my wordage from 3000 words a day to 2000 words a day. btrt l was starting to not enjoy it. which wasn’t the idea at all. So. it was semi-retirement. I suppose.~
Still. the time spent padding around in his slippers with pipe resting metaphorically between lips meant that he could witness modern history and iconic imagery unravelling horrilically before his own eyes. The eyents in the [S one day in September. collided with the book Banks was beginning to write. an ode to the modern media and one man's struggle to elicit change by challenging his eager radio audience with some left-leaning shock-jockery. Bad radio + a plane careering towards catastrophe 2 Dead xlfl‘.
‘Suddenly we were living in interesting times.. says Banks about the carnage which bled onto his own pages. ‘()b\'iously I hadn‘t planned that when I‘d started thinking about the book last summer. but I had to make more room for it. Dual Air isn’t about I | September as such. but you have to mention it in any contemporary noyel you write: there‘s simply no way around it.'
And exert the cover designer got in on the act. The sepia image of a jet flying oyer the twin towers of the Battersea Power Station is haunting and dramatic. And probably a shock to the systems of the acolytes who have grown used to the comfort zone of sharp monochromes which have greeted those reaching for any Banks tome since 83. "l‘he old black and whites were starting to look a bit dated. too 80s and 90s. Btrt I wouldn't want to m'er-emphasise any sense of a watershed. l was presented with such a brilliant coyer there was no chance l’d yelo it.’
Within Dem/Air‘s coyers is the story of Kett Noll. a Scots-born London media man who spends an awful lot of time bedding. or thinking about bedding. a series of women. eventually falling for the missus of a horrible gangster. When things start to get a bit sinister in his life. he fears he may be heading towards his own personal atrocity. ()n the professional front. he has wilfully succeeded in trpsetting Jews. .\'a/is and almost eyeryone in between. So. when he gets the chance to go head-to-head with a llolocatrst denier on a telly talk-show. the temptation to take allirmatiyc action may be too much for him.