best known as the author of the massive international bestseller,
Trainspotting, but few with an interest in the crime genre will be unaware
of the output of the immensely-talented Scotsman, Irvine Welsh.
Welsh has turned his attention to familiar territory for Shots readers with
the publication of his new novel, CRIME.
book reprises a character from an earlier work, FILTH, and has attracted
some media controversy for its examination of the taboo subject of child
sent TONY BLACK to interview Welsh about his new book and get the low-down
on how police react to his work, his beloved Hibs, and more besides
BLACK: I think this is the third time I've interviewed you now ... am I in
the running for the 'official biographer' gig?
WELSH: I've had quite a few offers but it would be a boring read, so I'll
probably spare the world that one!
There's one thing I always ask
you about -- so I'll get out the way right now -- Hibs, is Mixu up to the
just back from Sweden, so not a great time to ask! No, its still early
days. He's done a great job steadying the ship but he needs to bring in some
quality in the middle of the park and get them passing. It'll be a big
season for him but I'm convinced he'll do well.
is the new one, how do you describe it?
an existential thriller, looking at how people come together and fight back
against the hurt that's been visited on them. It's actually my most upbeat
book I think.
a tricky subject to tackle, did you have any reservations? And if so, have
they been borne out by the reaction to the book?
was a hard one to write, but that's the way I like it. Novelists should set
out to do more than entertain and I like to push myself. The initial
reactions to the book have been positive, so it's vindicated doing it for
sections of the media accused you, stupidly it must be said, of cashing in
on the Madeleine McCann case, how did that make you feel?
people are mentally retarded; it's the only real explanation I can offer. Is
there a list of what authors can and can't write about now? And do they
honestly think that people are interested in reading novels on this subject?
They really should look at what's actually selling in any Waterstones before
making such daft comments. If I wrote a book about fairies, pixies and
elves, some people would say I was exploiting lovable magical icons. It's
the usual knee-jerk stuff from tiresome bores who love to moan. The
Madeleine McCann case is distressing enough for everybody without it being
flagged up all over the place to serve some twisted fool's need for petty
you read the Irish crime writer Declan Burke's comments about the issue on
his blog? The overriding message from the feedback was one of support for
you tackling the topic.
think many people in Ireland in particular, know all about the terrible pain
caused by the long silence on this terrible issue. It doesn't surprise me at
all that I've received a lot of support for writing about it.
know when I was writing PAYING FOR IT for a time I felt really uncomfortable
writing about the people-trafficking of teenagers for prostitution ... it
just seemed meaningless to make fiction about something that so obviously
devastates the lives of people in real world. Did you feel like that too?
course. The McCann case was one instance. I couldn't go on with the book for
a long time when that broke. Writers are human beings too, and we get
effected by the same stuff as everybody else. It seemed trivial to write a
novel when there were real people whose live were devastated by this horror.
heard you mention recently a friend of yours once revealed to you he had
been a victim of child abuse, how did you react to that?
think a lot of us found it difficult to cope with it emotionally. Scottish
working-class men are not made to handle that kind of news well. I don't th
ink anybody is. I still find it hard to tell him that I admired his courage
in coming out with it. It was obviously eating him up inside for a long time
and hopefully he can work through the distress its caused him. One thing
that was uplifting for me was to meet survivors of childhood sexual abuse
and see how so many of them have gone on to do great things with their
read a piece in the Guardian where you said you never wanted to write genre
fiction because it was 'dangerously close to having a day job' -- how would
you like to see CRIME labelled?
stick with existential thriller. I don't think it really fits into the Crime
genre as it isn't a police procedural and it doesn't follow the general
rules for the genre.
American crime writer Andrew Vachss has a well-documented association with
the subject we're discussing, did your research for CRIME ever lead you to
No. I never
knew anything about him till you kindly sent me that link.
crime writer, Martyn Waites, is very astute on the morals of the genre, he
says, and I'm paraphrasing, that we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that
when someone hits you, it hurts. Do the consequences of crime get enough
attention in fiction?
don't think so, but you have to remember that as a genre, crime fiction is
more about entertainment than realism. What readers of crime fiction
generally want is a good yarn with plot twists and above all, resolution.
Consequentialism might make it a bit too real for some people.
away from CRIME, but sticking with the crime genre, Shots readers will
likely as not know you for your other crime novel, FILTH; do you
think of FILTH as a police procedural?
really. Again, Robbo's procedures or his 'methods' probably would get him
sacked fairly quickly in real life.
FILTH, your protagonist DS Bruce Robertson is not exactly sympathetic --
which I really loved by the way -- did you have anyone tell you to make him
I think you see where his issues come from though, and you empathise with
at one stage says: ''...the complete dominance over another human being is
just part of what makes poliswork such a satisfying career''. Did any police
comment on that?
I think most cops know that Robbo is a nutter first, cop second. If he was a
plumber he'd be the same.
feedback on FILTH did you get from the police?
got very drunk after its publication and ended up in police cells in Devon.
Instead of getting a Robbo-style kicking in the cells the next day, I had a
pile of books waiting for me to sign. All the lads in the station wanted
one. Sometimes I still get asked to sign notebooks, and a few cops have told
me that they have a guy they nickname 'Robbo' in their station.
you see yourself writing anymore crime?
don't know what I'm going to write from one book to the next - that's the
way I like it.
are the crime writers you read?
don't read a great deal of crime. The only ones I read semi-regularly are
Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, probably because I know them both. They must
put something in water over in Fife.
finally, I heard a rumour that an old mate of yours Duncan McLean was back
in the writing saddle...can you shed any light on this?
ran into Duncan a while back and he was telling me that he's moving out of
the family jewellery business and going back into writing. I heard he's done
a play. I hope he gets back into it because he's such a great writer and I
think it's what he was meant to do.
by Irvine Welsh is published by Jonathan Cape July 2008 hbk £18.99 /
TONY BLACK's first novel PAYING FOR IT is
published by Random House imprint, Preface. Ken Bruen kindly praised the
book, saying it "blasts off the page like a triple malt . . . one
adrenaline-pumped novel that is as moving and compassionate as it is so
stylishly written". More of his writing can be found at: Scotsman.com,
Thug Lit, Demolition and Pulp Pusher. Black lives and works in Edinburgh.
Reach him via his website: www.tonyblack.net