Dead End

Well, you'll be glad to hear that following my voluble complaints about the geeky obsessive friend in Tru Calling, news reaches my ears through a webpage that the character, Cameron, has been written out of the show. Isn't the power of blogs wonderful. A rather bizarre phenomenon is the sheer number of web sites that are already devoted to this show -- a quick trawl brings up Tru Calling.net, Tru Calling Fans TruHeroine and TruCalling.com. The more cynical might claim that these are mostly promotional sites set up by the production company to create an instant fan base from nothing. And who am I to doubt these cynics?

My regular correspondant corresponds on this subject with the title "Dead Airtime", which reminds me of Iain Banks'''s recent paperback, 'Dead Air'. The audacity of this man knows no bounds. He recently switched schedules from spending six months of the year writing a book and the rest on holiday, to only writing a book once every two years. When this book was published last year, he seemed especially smug that it had only taken him a month or so to write, leaving him even more time to roll in the riches of the royalties of his previous books, which seem to keep coming in.

Certainly, the book gives the impression of having been written in a hurry. There isn't really anything much of a plot. Instead, the book is mostly a venue for Banks to trot out some well-rehearsed rants on life and society in the 21st Century. These all read like essays from an extrovert university student who wants to get attention by ridiculously over-the-top views with spurious arguments and just enough occasional glimpses of a genuine point, that you can't completely write him off as an idiot. Why this particularly fails to work is that Banks puts these rants into the mouth of his narrator, the implausible Ken Nott, a 'shock jock' (he's scottish - d'ya geddit? d'ya geddit? Well, don't worry if you don't, since Banks will use this same gag about three times in the book in case you missed it the first few times), overlooking the fact that this kind of character simply doesn't exist in Britain. These carefully written rants, which are probably about the only parts of the book that got drafted more than once, albeit drafted by Banks at various dinner and cocktail parties at which he is not yet persona non grata. The thing is, it's completely implausible that anyone could come out with all this stuff in the seamless fashion that the narrator manages to. When he's being interviewed on a news programme, he still manages to produce these long paragraphs of rant, without ever being interrupted by the interviewer or other guests. Something of a feat, I'd have to say.

Although Banks tries to show his street cred by namechecking, of all people, 'Mark and Lard' and Zadie Smith, it's clear that his real influences here are Chris Moyles and Julie Birchill. But he pours so much of himself into Nott, that you can just hear him screaming "I might come across as rough and lairy, but you love me really! Don't you love me?". Um, sorry Iain, no. We liked you charming story of self-discovery and family history in "The Crow Road"; we warmed to you implausible ex-rock star in "Espedair Street"; we got a thrill out of the revenge fantasies in "Complicity", and smiled warmly on the attention-seeking shocks in "The Wasp Factory". But we rather lost interest in the tedious drivel of "Song of Stone" and the only slightly better "The Business". Perhaps it's time that you stopped altogether.

No such luck. Apparently Banks is writing another book. This time, he's not even bothering to dress himself up in the clothes of a fictional character. Instead, it's to be a self-indulgent account of his travels to various Scottish distillieries. Make up your own jokes here, preferably involving the words "brewery", "piss-up" and "awful, lazy excuse to pump more money out of the book-buying public".

Coming soon... some more stuff. Probably

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