Accusations about his literary merit have plagued IRVINE WELSH ever since the days of Trainspotting. But his new novel, Filth, proves it's far from a fair cop. WOrds: Brian Donaldson
GETTING THE POINT. OR RATHER 'LOSING the point’ is how lrvine Welsh would probably put it when discussing people discussing his
work. Three months before the publication of
his new book. I’iltli. a letter appeared in trade mag The Boo/(seller decrying the novel‘s cover. “‘l‘iltli'X' the letter said. 'is a well known euphemism for the police force. To
emphasise the point. the cover has the face of
a pig on it; "pigs" is another euphemism for the police. Now comes the clever bit. For those who have still not got the message. the pig is wearing a police-man‘s helmet.
Brilliant! I‘m sure Mr Welsh's readers will get the point. eventually.’
Not only has lrvine Welsh become an easy target. at times he is even the wrong one. Tom Paulin‘s insistence on The Late Revlon- that theatres were built for Noel Coward's work and not Welsh’s universally loathed You'll Harv Had Your Hole is typical.
‘To me. the book I've written is the book I‘ve written.‘ Welsh insists. ‘Any attendant
10 THE “ST 23 Jay 6 A..g T998
images that go along with it is the corporate thing. so (‘ape [his publishers] have got to take the responsibility. They won a marketing
award for history. I didn't: so I‘m fucked if
I‘m taking criticism. What I've learned from film and theatre is that. when you‘re writing books. the writer is the god in between the pages: but on screenplays and stageplays. it‘s just enabling documents for the director and the actors. whatever. Your role becomes more diminished as the thing advances.‘
The critics. whom he now ignores. will be sharpening their wooden cylinders for the
greenest of field days with Fill/1‘s cover and content. The book follows [)8 Bruce Robertson on his downward spiral into drugs. violence. casual and/or brutal sex. all while in the throes of a murder investigation and attempting to snatch promotion by means foul and fouler. ()h. and his anus commences an internal dialogue. reminding him of his dark childhood within a stoic mining community and strict family.
Any thoughts that this is a release of some long-burning obsession to have a go at the local constabulary are put to rest. ‘At first the guy worked in the Planning Department in the local council.’ Welsh explains. 'but then I got the idea of putting him in a murder mystery and weaving that into it. And it took on a different dynamic when it became that.‘
Yet. a corrupt cop seems to embody the kind of character that Welsh can have much scatalogical fun with. while also posing problems for critics who continually seek the
join where his protagonists end and lrvine
‘()ne of the challenges that I set myself is to take a character that seems completer beyond the pale. like in Mara/mu Stork Nightmares. who is repulsive to myself. and try to find a way in which I can empathise with that character.‘ he notes. ‘He's doing these horrible things but he‘s doing them for a certain reason and. in the case of Bruce. he believes that he's genetically flawed due to his inheritance. In a perverse way that’s quite empowering because. if you feel that you‘re totally fucked. then you've got no responsibility to behave in any kind of moral way.’
And Bruce is a Mason and a Hearts fan. 'ln cinema. and art in general. we're drawn towards baddies as they have the power to work outside the moral framework — which is why the villains are more memorable than the