Scottish writer Iain Banks has announced that he is "officially very poorly" with gall bladder cancer and may have only months to live.
The 59-year old novelist, whose debut novel The Wasp Factory is a cult classic, has recently been suffering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct.
"But that – it turns out – is the least of my problems," he wrote on his website yesterday. "I've withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I've asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour helps)."
Banks says that he and Adèle Hartley, a fellow author whom he married earlier this year, intend "to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us."
He also writes: "There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However that is still something we're balancing the pros and cons of, and anyway it is out of the question until my jaundice has further and significantly, reduced."
The writer, who pens mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, also praised the top-class treatment he has received.
"From my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved - and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed - has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We're all just sorry the outcome hasn't been more cheerful."
The author, who has won acclaim for novels such as The Crow Road and Complicity, has always had a charmingly cavalier attitude to the writing desk. He once reportedly said that he intended to devote no more than three months a year to writing, because there were so many more interesting things to spend time at. He likes to drive fast cars and fool around with technological gadgets.
He adds that the publication of his next novel, The Quarry, is being brought forward "by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves."