I rather loved the way Iain wrote. He would spend April through June thinking about thinking about a new book, July through September really thinking about it, September through Christmas plotting it out and making a detailed plan and then January through March actually sitting in front of this computer writing it.
While he used to tell audiences he only worked for three months of the year – referring to the actual typing bit – he was quick to add that he spent rather a lot of the rest of the time working it all out in his head, though he knew that to look at him there were few outward signs of actual ‘working’!
The Quarry was conceived in early summer 2012, plotted through the autumn and was pretty much ready to go by December. Even around Christmas he was often to be found in his study tweaking the plan and often told me he was itching to start writing.
On Monday 4th March this year, Iain was sitting on a corner bed of a Fife hospital ward waiting for a scan result, laptop open, working on the final few chapters of The Quarry. At that stage, there were about 87,000 words written, less than 10,000 to go.
There were so many moments in our life together when we’d look at something or overhear something and say to each other “you could never put that in a book” quite simply because no-one would believe that it was likely or possible. Real life can be funny like that.
And at the end, Iain’s story became something you could never put in a book – certainly something he never would have. He was horrified at the idea of putting a person or event from his real life directly into any work of fiction as it would have been a slight on the power of his imagination.
Had he known he had cancer, he would never have written about it. The inaccuracies appearing about why and when this book was written make me think of Guy in The Quarry, gleefully misquoting Dorothy Parker when he exclaims, “What fresh bollockry is this?” Iain knew that had he survived his cancer, he would have spent the rest of his life correcting the facts at every event and in every interview!
The Quarry is beautiful. It’s a breathless read, laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreaking and fantastically sweary in a way that would definitely meet with Malcolm Tucker’s approval – and all the more devastating because in the end Iain came to know his character’s story just a little too well. The vicious irony of the situation wasn’t lost on either one of us.