Author Iain Banks dies ahead of cancer-themed final novel's release

Scottish author Iain Banks, pictured here in August 2012, was a noted and prolific author of literary and science fiction novels.

Story highlights

  • Scottish writer Iain Banks died just two months after announcing he had cancer
  • The best-selling author drew acclaim for both mainstream and science fiction novels
  • Release of final novel, dealing with cancer, brought forward due to his illness
  • His publisher said Banks was presented with a finished copy three weeks ago

Tributes are flowing for Scottish author Iain Banks, who has died aged 59 after a short battle with cancer just days before the release of his final novel.

The prolific writer, best known for his 1984 debut "The Wasp Factory" and 1992's "The Crow Road," was noted as an author of darkly humorous literary and science fiction, the latter of which was published under the name Iain M. Banks.

His wife, Adele, said he died in the early hours of the morning and that "his death was calm and without pain."

Banks released a statement in April revealing he had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the gall bladder, after suffering what he believed was a back strain.

Writing that it was "extremely unlikely" he would live beyond a year, he announced that he had asked his long-term partner "if she will do me the honor of becoming my widow," adding that "we find ghoulish humor helps."

The couple were married in the Scottish Highlands and honeymooned in Venice and Paris, before Banks was hospitalized in Scotland on their return.

Banks asked his publishers to bring forward the release of his final novel, "The Quarry," so he could see its publication. The book, to be released June 20, details the final weeks of a 40-something protagonist, Guy, in his own fight against cancer.

His publishers, Little, Brown, said the author had been presented with a finished copy of the book three weeks ago. "Banks' ability to combine the most fertile of imaginations with his own highly distinctive brand of gothic humor made him unique," the company said in a statement. "He is an irreplaceable part of the literary world."

The rapid passing of the writer, known for his love of malt whisky and strong political views -- he tore up his passport in 2003 in protest at the Iraq War -- drew an outpouring of grief from fellow authors and fans alike.

The English writer Neil Gaiman tweeted: "I'm crying in an empty house. A good man and a friend for almost 30 years."

Referencing the expression for death used in one of Banks' most celebrated novels, the Scottish author Ian Rankin tweeted that his friend was "away the crow road far too soon." He added: "Right now I'd like to kick cancer in its sniggering head, but instead I'll take a single malt."

Fellow Scot Irvine Welsh, the author of "Trainspotting," called Banks "one of the finest writers and greatest imaginations ever," and said his debut novel "was one of those books that changed my life (and) made me want to be a writer."

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond described Banks as "one of Scotland's literary greats who always approached life with extraordinary vitality."

In 2008, UK newspaper The Times named Banks one of "the 50 greatest British writers since 1945."

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