December 28, 2003


Whisky odyssey: Novelist Iain Banks waxes lyrical about the appeal of following your nose and how it led to his first non-fiction book and whisky travelogue Raw Spirit: In Search Of The Perfect Dram (Graeme Virtue, 28 December 2003, Sunday Herald)

BOOZE is close to the heart of novelist Iain Banks, even when it’s not actually glugging down his throat. From his journalist anti-hero raging against the process of chill-filtering whisky in Complicity, to a sci-fi mercenary forcing up the last couple of pints as a diversionary tactic in Consider Phlebas, alcohol percolates through almost all his output, whether it’s set in space or Speyside. His latest – a non-fiction tome that filled out many a Christmas stocking this year – is brimming over with the stuff. Raw Spirit is a rambling, pleasingly unrefined whisky travelogue subtitled In Search Of The Perfect Dram, which sees Banks criss-crossing his native Scotland in various modes of transport sniffing out the best nips.

So, who better to discuss swally than a man who’s spent six months of this year sampling whisky and calling it work? That’s the plan: get him in the pub, ply him with drink and then set the world to rights. It’s perfect, apart from one detail: today, Iain Banks – famed curry-eater, petrolhead, creator of worlds and all-round grande patron – is hungover.

You can’t begrudge him. Last night was the launch party for Raw Spirit, so he took plenty of the stuff on board. And, while he’s not one of those wimps who wince at the sound of their own voice when they’ve over-indulged the night before, he politely declines a dram of his beloved Lagavulin.

Even hungover, though, he’s good company; witty and engaging, if a little preoccupied. His amiable, brushy appearance – slightly chaotic hair, tamed beard, understatedly stylish specs – doesn’t appear to have changed all that much in the 20 years since the publication of his cult debut The Wasp Factory.

The whisky book, he explains, was a complete no-brainer. “When I was asked to do it, I felt like smacking my forehead in a Homer-ish kind of way, wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself. Scotland. Driving. Whisky. All my buttons had been punched at the same time.”

Phlebas appears to be out of print, but Player of Games is available and is likewise part of Mr. Banks's terrific series about "The Culture"--fine, thoughtful science fiction.

-ESSAY: A Few Notes On The Culture (Iain M Banks)
-IAIN BANKS (1954-) (Guardian)
-Iain (M.) Banks Resource Page
-Iain M. Banks (Ex Libris)
-INTERVIEW: Getting Used To Being God: Chris Mitchell meets the relentlessly imaginative Iain (M.) Banks (Spike, September 1996)
-INTERVIEW: Iain M. Banks (Nick Gevers, Science Fiction Weekly)
-ESSAY: THE CULTURE AS AN IDEAL SOCIETY (Thomas Gramstad, June 5, 2000, Laissez Faire City Times)
-ESSAY: Analysis of The Bridge (Richard Puchalsky)

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 28, 2003 3:32 PM

Macallan 12 year old. A little too sweet, but otherwise perfect.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 28, 2003 5:35 PM

I liked Player of Games too, but... Y'all are conservatives, right? And the Culture is the pure Platonic Form of the "progressive liberal" ideal society. Wazzupwiddat? Just curious.

Posted by: TC at December 29, 2003 9:50 AM


It's fiction.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2003 10:05 AM