I was sixteen when The Crow Road was adapted for television, my first encounter with the writing of Iain Banks.
Even now, just the mention of The Crow Road brings back that time for me: sixth year at school, everyone having a crush on Joe McFadden, getting the book for Christmas and being totally engrossed in it from start to finish (when I wasn’t distracted by those brown doe-eyes of ‘Prentice’ on the cover).
It also seemed as if everyone was reading his books. My dad, my next door neighbour, some random girl I met at a party. His writing able to encompass all readers.
At sixteen it dealt with those issues I could relate to as an angsty teenager – families, sex, death, drink, unrequited love. It was also set in Argyll, which was where my dad had grown up and where I’d spent many happy times visiting my grandparents, so it all just seemed to click for me in the way certain films, albums and books do when you’re a teenager.
Reading it was an epiphany, discovering ‘contemporary Scottish fiction’ for the first time. The joy and despair of it. Realising that this was what I wanted to write, but knowing that I’d never be able to come up with something so brilliant.
When I moved to Edinburgh, he was one of the first customers I served in Virgin Megastore. I was genuinely star struck and too shy to tell him I was a fan. After that I got used to seeing him in Edinburgh; like Greyfriars Bobby or the Scott Monument, you’d just pass him in the street every so often. Always with a smile on his face, like he wasn’t quite there but off somewhere else inside his head.
It’s funny how a stranger can have such an influence on you. Time to re-read that copy of The Crow Road…