Irvine Welsh no longer has to go to pubs to hear ‘the worst’ of humanity: ‘Just go on social media’

Scottish author discusses how he finds inspiration for his famously dark and troubled characters

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 15 September 2023 10:19 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh says he no longer has to sit in the pub to hear the dark, drink-sodden thoughts of his neighbours for inspiration – he just visits social media.

The Scottish novelist, currently promoting the second season of ITV drama Crime, stars Dougray Scott and Joanna Vanderham as detectives working to solve crimes in Edinburgh.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Welsh discussed the new season along with how he finds inspiration in the conversations he witnesses while online or out and about.

“You can find some nutter on social media and just go onto their account,” the 64-year-old said. “You don’t need to be standing next to them, buying them drinks or listening to them, you can actually just see all this laid bare. People just give all that stuff away, they give away the very worst elements of themselves.”

Welsh noted that people are “different in real life than they are on social media”, meaning it was still important to spend time in the real world, as opposed to on a screen.

“It’s important to see people how they really are, how they operate,” he said. “People in real life are different to how they are on social media, to get the humanity of characters you have to mix with them, you have to spend time with them.”

In a 2020 interview with The Independent, Welsh admitted he could spend hours on Twitter which he used as a distraction that was “less harmful” than some of his previous addictions.

Discussing his character DI Lennox played by Scott, Welsh described him as “kind of an avenging angel”, rather than a clean-cut figure of the law.

“He’s not really a cop, he’s a guy using the power of the police to apprehend murderers and sex offenders... because he himself was a victim of abuse as a kid,” he said. “So he’s kind of an avenging angel, he’s on a vengeance quest, and he’s really using the police force as a kind of weapon to aid him on this quest.

“And that’s his mission, really, I think he believes that by doing that he can ‘mend himself’, that everyone he puts away is cathartic to him, it’s another itch that’s scratched.”

Welsh rose to fame after the publication of his 1993 novel Trainspotting, which followed a group of misfits navigating through Edinburgh’s murky, crime and drug-ridden underground. It was adapted into a feature film by Danny Boyle in 1996, starring Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller.

His latest novel, The Long Knives, which followed the later life of Francis “Franco” Begbie, a violent psychopathic character first introduced in the Trainspotting series, was released last year to acclaim.

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