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Just Janice: Iain Banks and a masterclass in dealing with death

We knew that he was going to die soon, maybe in a few months' time, but that didn't make the shock news of Iain Banks' sudden death any easier to digest.

The master of fiction had handled the stark facts of his terminal cancer so brilliantly - going public when it was appropriate to do so, leaving that now famous statement on his website, that he was “Officially Very Poorly”.

Fans were encouraged to leave messages there for Iain, and they did so in their hundreds, with their recipient acknowledging both his surprise at the outpouring of love and admiration for him, and the fact that the responses, some of which made him laugh, provided succour for him at such a difficult time.

I read only one dissenting voice, elsewhere on the web, commenting that Iain’s openness about his condition was symptomatic of the current tell-all, celebrity-driven, privacy-shunning age.

In fact, I’m sure that the celeb-loathing Mr Banks took the step to go public out of respect for his readers.

Better to share with them this final personal story with an unhappy ending (at the same time acknowledging the excellent NHS care he had been given) than to leave the people with whom he had built up a special author-reader relationship over decades, with ghastly news that they had not been prepared for.

Iain Banks was an inspiration to Scotland and to his fans all over the world, not just as a writer of extraordinary imagination and intellect, who has left us with such a rich treasury of literature.

He was also someone whom we should remember for the way in which he conducted himself in life, and in the months leading up to his death.

In his usual self-deprecating way, he once said that he was only polite in public because he was covering up the fact that he was really quite selfish.

A great actor then as well as a world-class writer? I think not. We’ve all met famous people who believe their own publicity - that their success allows them to be rude and obnoxious. It’s usually the least talented and most insecure of the breed who behave badly.

Iain was charming, funny, passionate about politics and respectful of everyone from the small bookshop owners to his readers. His fans everywhere mourn his passing - just the other night at The Who’s Glasgow gig, Pete Townsend dedicated a song to Iain.

If we could all adopt just an ounce of Iain Banks’ joie de vivre, pragmatism and courtesy, Scotland would be such a better place.

Talking of which, it’s time to celebrate Scotland at its best with Refugee Week Scotland - events across the country are spotlighting the contribution made by refugees and the communities that have welcomed them.

It’s not serious and po-faced either, there’s a wealth of theatre, comedy, art and music everywhere from Glasgow to the island of Mull. Check out the bulging programme at the Refugee Week Scotland website.

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