1987 novel by Iain Banks (rather than Iain M. Banks). Espedair Street is about Daniel Weir, or Weird, as he gets called (because of Weir D. - the way his name would be written in a school register).

The book tells two stories: the first is how Daniel got to be an internationally famous rock star with the band Frozen Gold, the money, the cars, the drugs, the sex and so on, and what becomes of the rest of the act (Crazey Davey, Christine, Wes and so on); and the second is about Daniel's life since the break-up of the band. Dan thinks that it's his fault that Davey died (and in truth, it probably wasn't), and the band split up. He also feels guilty about having socialist friends, and maybe even being a socialist himself, and still having a fortune in the bank. To avoid the guilt he pretends that he is his own caretaker, and the money, and the large folly in which he lives are not his. The guilt finally gets to him, and he decides to kill himself - and then, just before the book actually begins its narrative, he decides not to after all: 'everything that follow is... just to try and explain.'

Typically, Banks plays around with the structuring of the plot (the fabula is hard to put together, and the syuzhet is occasionally difficult to follow); he interweaves the immediate story of the last week or so with the story of his life in general in such a way that it is occasionally hard to work out what is being said of when. He doesn't quite throw us as much as he does in, say, Use of Weapons, but he gets pretty close. It's obviously deliberate - Banks wants to unsettle us and to consider the events for what they are, not just the perspective that the past puts them in. He wants us to see why Dan might consider killing himself, and appreciate why he shouldn't at the same time. As a result of this, the book is really very moving indeed. (It's certainly up there with John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany - and required reading for depressives... I read both once a year.)

It's also full of Banks's trademark stuff: there's a whole gallery of weird characters: Wee Tommy, a young dysfunctional Glaswegian, who tries to get high of the residual propellant gas from whipped-cream canisters and succeeds in doing little more than getting a nose full of cream; his dog TB (which stand for Total Bastard) who gets drunk on a regular basis; Davey, who owns and flies helicopters round factory chimneys in the dark; and Weird himself, who, with his hang-ups about talent, success and money is one of Banks's best creations. There are some great locations, too: the best is the folly in which Dan lives. A wealthy Scot, whose child died before it could be christened, created a sort of mock church to ridicule the religion who wouldn't let his child into heaven. On the gravestones outside he wrote the names of all the people who abandoned him on his quest to have his offspring blessed - the date of birth on each is correct, and the date of death is the date he stopped having anything to do with them.

One of the best moments, though, is a thoroughly technical one, where Banks shows his skill as a writer. Right at the end of the book, the narration changes from past to present tense, with no real reason for doing so. Weir (who has just given his money away) has been idly considering a wobbly table. He finds a piece of plastic in his pocket, snaps it in half, and shoves it under one of the table's legs.

'It was only after I'd sat up again and done a double-take and looked down that I realised what I had used was my platinum Amex card... I swear.

* * *

'I look up again, laughing quietly to myself.'

It is the action of breaking the card that frees him from the past. Utterly marvellous stuff, and a completely compelling, and hugely life-affirming book.