His unfortunately-titled j third book The Sopranos (albeit written before Tony and his crew entered the culture). was about a bunch of Highland Catholic schoolgirls coming to lidinburgh for a song contest. but actually ttsing the event as an excuse to get blasted in the big city. Warner is writing the screenplay. with Michael (‘aton-Jones (Rob Roy. Scandal) sitting in the director’s chair.
For reasons of diplomacy. rather than legal. it requires a new title. ‘I suggested (‘hura/ Sex. but Michael just gave me a filthy look.’ But not even Warner‘s hero Orson Welles would have taken on a project so doom-laden and budget-worrying as filming These Demented Lands.
And then there‘s his new tome. The Man Who ll'alks. As with his previous three. it’s largely about a journey of both body and mind as our hapless hero Macushla. aka the Nephew. is assigned to follow his uncle. the man who walks. who has made off with a World Cup kitty worth £27.()()() and headed north. A series of surreal adventures occur on route (varying in intensity from Carry On to Grand Guignol). but unlike the 'revelation‘ at the end of .W()l‘\'(’l')l ('allar. the brutal climax here comes crashing out of the blue.
‘l‘m worried about this book because it’s the only one I liked when I finished it.‘ he says. Warner‘s statements are often studded with tiny self-deprecatory gems: ‘l‘ve never really thought of myself as having any talent‘; 'I used to pretend that l was an intellectual. but I‘m actually a bit of a thicko‘: 'l was timid as a child and a late bedwetter'.
Before he was soiling his sheets. Alan Warner enjoyed a fairly charmed childhood. His Yorkshireman father met Warner’s mother in Austria dttring the l‘)-1()s and they settled in the Highlands. His dad opened up a shop then a petrol pump business. a small
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hotel then a bigger hotel. Warner was born into all this il saw
entrepreneurial zeal in [96-1. ‘I grew up in a 4()-room
hotel which was closed in the winter: real Stephen 0n King stuff.‘ he recalls. ‘Mv mates would come round
- bus once, but I was too shy to Warner’s dad was a big shot around town. strolling say
and we'd play these hiding games in all these rooms. Justheavenf
around his patch. wearing a cravat and being rude to
everyone. His mother was a more timid sort. They are
both dead now. bttt Warner admits to having inherited shades of their personalities.
After school where he was a keen truant. Warner worked on the fishing boats. the railway. in a hotel and on the bttses before taking the leap into London to become the first member on either side of the family to go into further education. By now. he was a serious music freak. and his addiction to John Peel‘s legendary late-night Radio I show thankfully muted his taste for soft rock. He also winged it in jazz bands. playing a rigged-up double bass with pedals. but realised he wasn‘t going to be the next (‘harlie Mingus when a band member asked if he could play in any key other than ‘li‘.
14 THE LIST 713 Met, 6: .lti"(: 230?
liventually returning to Scotland in 1990. via the bars of Spain. Warner started writing to alleviate the tedium and frustration of more labour intensive employment. ‘I was a touchy fucker with a chip on my shoulder cos I‘ve got that thing where half of me is Marxist left wing and half of me is Yorkshire self- made man and they don't sit well together.’
Having completed Mart'ern Callar. he sent the manuscript to Duncan McLean. whose Bucket ()f Tongues is a key text for Warner. Three days of furious nail-biting later. McLean got back to him. full of compliments and encouragement. These days. international stars Michael Ondaatje and Annie Proulx are among his authorly confidantes.
By the mid-90s he was truly ensconced in the vibrant Scottish literature of the era. learning up beside lrvine Welsh. Laura Hird and Gordon Legge in Rebel Inc‘s Children Of Albion Rovers line-up. ‘Kevin [Williamson] had a launch
1 .~ - for it in Edinburgh. taking
. 3 _ -- over the whole of the
THE MAN WHO WALKS : Traverse. There was a rave
7 ' i N R ‘ downstairs and everyone
fuﬁm (“Might “in” was eccied up. As the music
' ' was playing. we were
thinking: "That’s a weird
remix". Suddenly all the
security gttys came down
and were like: "Everybody
get out. the alarml". So this alarm was mixed in with the music and
everybody had to pile out. It was snowing and we were all covered with sweat: all the Scottish writers were nearly wiped out.‘
He keeps in slow touch with lrvine Welsh. bttt those wild days are well and truly in the past as he lives the writerly life with his wife in that most writerly of cities. Dublin. ‘1 saw Roddy Doyle on the bus once. I know he‘s a Marvern (‘a/lar fan. but I was too shy to say hello.‘ While many of Warner's literary heroes are indeed Dubliners — Beckett. Joyce. Paddy Kavanagh. Flann O’Brien — he is relieved that the place doesn't wear that tradition too blatantly on its sleeve. ‘1 was a little scared of sitting in Grogan‘s Lounge. full of men with their beards sticking in the Guinness. arguing about which story in Dab/iners was best. Bttt it's not there.’
So. now that Alan Warner is a successful novelist (in his eyes. if not yours). and set to be a big name through the films of his books. what could there possibly be left for him to achieve'.’ ‘l'm striving to write a good book; I have a dream of a book in my head. so perfect. After that. I‘d watch the grass grow. grow strawberries. write a bad book. or the same book twice. A book so perfect that all you can do is write the same one again.‘
So. five hours later. after a puddle of Guinness. the amiable Warner. the not-so-scary-as-you‘re-led-to-believe Warner. the pretty unpretentious Warner sends me off fora flight home that I nearly miss. Truth is. I could have listened to him all day. No bull.
A l. A N W A R N li R
The Man Who Walks is published by Jonathan Cape priced £10.99. Alan Warner reads at Borders, Glasgow, Thu 6 Jun.