Tonight, everyone in the packed main tent of the Edinburgh International Book Festival felt like a friend of the late Iain Banks — whether they’d met him or not.
This was thanks to a moving, poignant but above all hugely enjoyable event, where Brian Taylor chaired Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Ken MacLeod — there not so much as fellow writers, but as some of Iain’s closest friends.
Memories and anecdotes were shared, all of which had one common thread: the fierce and devilish humour for which Banks was renowned. Even Neil Gaiman, leaving a long line of eager fans clutching books at his signing queue, popped in to recount a tale of Iain traversing the front of Brighton’s Metropole Hotel at a decidedly inopportune moment.
Valerie Redmond, who starred in the TV adaptation of The Crow Road, gave readings from The Bridge and The Quarry. The second of these, a rant from one of the novel’s terminally ill characters, was immensely poignant, but also hilarious, causing — as Festival director Nick Barley had hoped when the event was announced earlier this year — the audience to raise the roof.
With Taylor encouraging people to share their own comments and memories from the start, the event had a wonderfully inclusive feel, allowing everyone there the chance to pay their respects to a true giant of Scottish literature, who — as the inscription on the book sculpture so rightly points out — went the Crow Road far too soon.