Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh

Infobox Writer
name = Irvine Welsh

imagesize =
caption = Irvine Welsh ca. 2004 at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date and age|df=yes|1958|9|27
birthplace = Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist
nationality = Scottish
Residence = Dublin, Ireland
notableworks = Trainspotting
genre = Literature, Novel
movement = Modernism, Post Modernism
influences = Louis-Ferdinand Céline, William Burroughs, Alex Trocchi, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, William McIlvanney, Alan Spence, Iggy Pop, Bertolt Brecht, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Kierkegaard, James Joyce
influenced =

Irvine Welsh (born 27 September 1958 Leith, Edinburgh) is a contemporary Scottish novelist, best known for his novel "Trainspotting". He has also written plays and screenplays, and directed several short films.


Irvine Welsh was born in Leith and moved with his family to Muirhouse, in Edinburgh, when he was four. His mother worked as a waitress, his father was a dock worker then a carpet salesman, who died when Welsh was 25. Welsh left Ainslie Park Secondary School when he was 16 and then completed a City and Guilds course in electrical engineering. He became an apprentice TV repairman until an electric shock persuaded him to move on to a series of other jobs.Fact|date=December 2007 He left Edinburgh for the London punk scene in 1978, where he played guitar and sang in The Pubic Lice and Stairway 13, the latter a reference to the Ibrox disaster. He worked for Hackney Council in London and studied computing with the support of the Manpower Services Commission.Fact|date=December 2007

In the mid 1980s he became a minor property speculator, renovating houses in the rapidly gentrifying North London. After the London property boom of the 1980s, Welsh returned to Edinburgh where he worked for the city council in the housing department. He went on to study for an MBA at Heriot-Watt University, writing his thesis on creating equal opportunities for women.

Welsh has made several reading tours around the world and has been involved with his beloved house music as a DJ, promoter and producer. Like many of his characters, he supports Hibs. He met an American woman Beth Quinn, 26, when he was teaching creative writing in Chicago, and they were married in July 2005. He considers the age gap inconsequential. 'I've never felt tied to any one age ... I've never thought "I must find someone a couple of years younger than I am".' Welsh was married once before, in 1984 to Anne Ansty, however they divorced after almost 20 years.Fact|date=December 2007

He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. In an interview with "The Daily Mail" on 7 August 2006, he described himself as "not so much middle-class as upper-class. I'm very much a gentleman of leisure. I write. I sit and look out of my window into the garden. I enjoy books. I love the density and complexity of Jane Austen and George Eliot. I listen to music; I travel. I can go off to a film festival whenever I like." He also describes himself as monogamous: "it sounds boring but it's the way I am".


To date, Welsh has published eight books. His first novel, "Trainspotting", was published in 1993. Set in the mid 1980s, it uses a series of loosely connected short stories to tell the story of a group of characters tied together by decaying friendships, heroin addiction and stabs at escape from the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives in the housing schemes. It was released to shock and outrage in some circles and massive acclaim in others; "Time Out" called it "funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic and inventive", and "The Sunday Times" called Welsh "the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades". One critic (Welsh's personal friend Kevin Williamson) went so far as to say that "Trainspotting" "deserves to sell more copies than The Bible". It was adapted as a play, and a film adaptation, directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge, was released in 1996. Welsh himself appeared in the film as Mikey Forrester, a minor character. The film was a worldwide success. U.S. Senator Bob Dole decried its moral depravity and glorification of drug use during the 1996 presidential campaign, although he admitted that he had not actually seen the film (or, presumably, read the book).Fact|date=December 2007

Next, Welsh released "The Acid House", a collection of short stories from "Rebel Inc.", "New Writing Scotland" and other sources. Many of the stories take place in and around the housing schemes from "Trainspotting", and employ many of the same themes; however, a touch of fantasy is apparent in stories such as "The Acid House", where the minds of a baby and a drug user swap bodies, or "The Granton Star Cause", where God transforms a man into a fly as punishment for wasting his life. Welsh himself adapted three of the stories for a later film, which he also appeared in.

Welsh's third book (and second novel), "Marabou Stork Nightmares", alternates between a typically grim tale of thugs and schemes in sub-working class Scotland and a hallucinatory adventure tale set in South Africa. Gradually, common themes begin to emerge between the two stories, culminating in a shocking ending.

His next book, "" (1996), became his most high-profile work since "Trainspotting", released in the wave of publicity surrounding the film. It consists of three unconnected novellas: the first, "Lorraine Goes To Livingston", is a bawdy satire of classic British romance novels, the second, "Fortune's Always Hiding", is a revenge story involving thalidomide, and the third, "The Undefeated" is a sly, subtle romance between a young woman dissatisfied with the confines of her suburban life and an aging clubgoer. Most critics dismissed the first two as relatively minor affairs and focused their praise on "The Undefeated". Welsh's narration imbued both characters with surprising warmth, and the story avoided easy, pro-ecstasy conclusions.

A corrupt police officer and his tapeworm served as the narrators for his third novel, "Filth" (1998). Welsh had never avoided flawed characters, but the main character of "Filth" was a brutally vicious sociopathic policeman. His tapeworm was perhaps the most sympathetic character, a classic Welsh inversion.

"Glue" (2001) was a return to the locations, themes and episodic form of "Trainspotting", telling the stories of four characters spanning several decades in their lives and the bonds that held them together.

Having revisited some of them in passing in "Glue", Welsh brought most of the "Trainspotting" characters back for a sequel, "Porno", in 2002. In this book Welsh explores the impact of pornography on the individuals involved in producing it, as well as society as a whole, and the impact of aging and maturity in individuals against their will.

Welsh's novel, "The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs" (2006), deals with a young, alcoholic civil servant who finds himself inadvertently putting a curse on his nemesis, a nerdy co-worker. In 2007, Welsh published "If You Liked School You'll Love Work", his first collection of short stories in over a decade.

At the request of the "Daily Telegraph", Welsh travelled with a group of authors and journalists to the Sudan in 2001. A book called "The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa" was the result, to which Welsh contributed a novella called "Contamination", about the violence and warlords in the region. A second book, "The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta", was published in 2004. Welsh, Ian Rankin, and Alexander McCall Smith each contributed a short story for the "One City" compilation published in 2005 in benefit of the One City Trust for social inclusion in Edinburgh.

Welsh's most recently published novel is entitled "Crime", whose main character is Ray Lennox (who appeared Welsh's previous work, "Filth"). Detective Inspector Ray Lennox is recovering from a mental breakdown induced by occupational stress and cocaine abuse, and a particularly horrifying child sex murder case back in Edinburgh. The story takes place in Florida. cite web |url=|]

Irvine Welsh is planning to write a prequel to "Trainspotting" to be published in 2009 cite web |url= |title=Prequel to chart Trainspotting characters' fall from innocence |accessdate=2007-03-17 |]

Film and stage

As well as fiction, Irvine Welsh has written several stage plays, including "Headstate", "You'll Have Had Your Hole", and the musical "Blackpool", which featured original songs by Vic Godard of the Subway Sect.

More recently he coauthored "Babylon Heights" with his screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh. The play premiered in San Francisco at the Exit Theatre and made its European premiere in Dublin, at The Mill Theatre Dundrum where it was directed by Graham Cantwell and featured performances from actors Rachel Rath, David Heap, Dermot Magennis and John Fitzpatrick. The plot revolves around the behind-the-scenes antics of a group of Munchkins on the set of "The Wizard of Oz". The production included the use of oversized sets with actors of regular stature.

Cavanagh and Welsh have also collaborated on a number of screenplays. "The Meat Trade" is based on the 19th century West Port murders. Despite the historical source material, Welsh has set the story in the familiar confines of present day Edinburgh, with Burke and Hare depicted as brothers who steal human organs to meet the demands of the global transplant market.

"Wedding Belles", a film made for Channel 4 that was written by Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, aired at the end of March 2007. The film centres around the lives of four young women, who are played by Michelle Gomez, Shirley Henderson, Shauna MacDonald, and Kathleen McDermot. Wedding Belles was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA and was subsequently sold to TV channels in Canada and Europe.

They are also currently working on several other projects for film and television.Fact|date=December 2007

Welsh has directed several short films for bands. In 2001 he directed a 15 minute film for Gene's song "Is It Over" which is taken from the album "Libertine". In 2006 he directed a short film to accompany the track "Atlantic" from Keane's album "Under the Iron Sea". The video was written by Dean Cavanagh. It went on to become the most watched C4 video exclusive of 2006.

Welsh recently directed his first short dramatic film, NUTS, which he co wrote with Dean Cavanagh. The film features Joe McKinney as a man dealing with testicular cancer in post Celtic tiger Ireland.

Film adaptation

In 2008, the film "Ecstasy" based on "The Undefeated" will be produced.


Welsh is often pigeonholed as a writer whose work concentrates on recreational drug use. However, most of his fiction and non-fiction is dominated by the question of working class and Scottish identity in the period spanning the 1960s to the present day. Within this, he explores the rise and fall of the council housing scheme, denial of opportunity, sectarianism, football, hooliganism, sex, suppressed homosexuality, dance clubs, low-paid work, freemasonry, Irish republicanism, sodomy, class divisions, emigration, and perhaps most of all, the humour, prejudices, and axioms of the Scots.


His novels share a number of characters, giving the feel of a "shared universe" within his writing. For example, characters from "Trainspotting" make cameo appearances in "The Acid House", "Marabou Stork Nightmares", "Ecstasy", "Filth", and slightly larger appearances in "Glue", whose characters then appear in "Porno".

Irvine Welsh is known for writing in his native Edinburgh Scots dialect. He generally ignores the traditional conventions of literary Scots, used for example by Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and James Orr. Instead, he transcribes dialects phonetically, a device popularised by authors such as James Kelman and Iain Banks. Non-Scottish readers may have difficulty deciphering the language, and may miss some of the impact and references to football, sectarianism, and Scottish everyday life in his work. For that reason, some international editions of his books have included brief glossaries at the end.

Like Alasdair Gray before him, Welsh also experiments with typography. A notable example is the book "Filth", where the tapeworm's internal monologue is imposed over the top of the protagonist's own internal monologue (the worm's host), visibly depicting the tapeworm's voracious appetite, much like the 'Climax of Voices' in Gray's novel "1982, Janine".


*"Trainspotting" (1993)
*"The Acid House" (1994)
*"Marabou Stork Nightmares" (1995)
*"" (1996)
*"Filth" (1998)
*"Glue" (2001)
*"Porno" (2002)
*"The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs" (2006)
*"If You Liked School You'll Love Work" (2007)
*"Crime" (2008)
*"Babylon Heights"
*"The Meat Trade"
*"You'll Have Had Your Hole" (drama)
*"Dose" (half Hour BBC drama written with Dean Cavanagh) [ [ BBC - Press Office - Dose ] ]
*"The Acid House" (screenplay)
*"Wedding Belles" (2007 film for Channel 4 written with Dean Cavanagh) [ ]


External links

* [] - extensive collection of hand picked links about Irvine Welsh
* [ BBC mini-bio on Welsh]
* [,%20Irvine Irvine Welsh at Random House Australia]
* [ SF Interview about "Babylon Heights"] play with writing partner Dean Cavanagh
* [ Interview with 3:AM Magazine]
* [ SuicideGirls Inteview By Garrett Faber]
* [ Irvine Welsh, album sleeve notes for Dean Owen's album 'Whisky Hearts']

NAME=Welsh, Irvine
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Scottish novelist
DATE OF BIRTH=27 September 1958
PLACE OF BIRTH=Edinburgh, Scotland

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