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Irvine Welsh

"I'll always be the Trainspotting guy."

DRUGS, sex, music - Irvine Welsh has always been inspired by and written about youth culture in his novels. But paedophilia?
That's the undercurrent theme in Crime, his ninth novel.
"You don't really see it written about as fiction," says Welsh.
"American fiction and American cinema is much more advanced and upfront about that kind of thing than we are."
Though he admits: "It's very difficult to write a book with that as the subject matter and expect people to read it. But to me (Crime) is less about abuse and more about rehabilitation and redemption."
Detective Ray Lennox (a returning character from Filth) is reeling from a horrific child murder case and heads off to Miami with his fiance to recover. But rather than recuperate he finds himself in a strange woman's flat looking after a ten-year-old who he must get to the safety of a family friend.
"I didn't really set out to write about it as a subject as much as writing about a character who was totally isolated," he says.
"Someone having to fend for themselves in a strange land. I've always written about guys from Scotland who've a cultural resource of their mates or colleagues."
Word has it that the catalyst for the story was a real incident from Welsh's youth, when a friend broke down and wept in a pub saying that he'd been abused by a family member.
"I wouldn't say it was the catalyst," says Welsh.
"I'd say it was one of the things that made me think about that kind of thing. Not so much the incident but the way it was handled. I don't think that groups of guys really have the emotional vocabulary to deal with these things.
"It seemed to me that Lennox would be in that kind of place, even if he was a professional police officer, it would still be something he'd find very difficult to deal with. Something he'd repress."
As well as dealing with that, the character is trying to wean himself off drink and drugs, a theme first explored in debut novel Trainspotting.
Like most, Welsh admits he had a perception of the paedophile being a modern criminal.
"You go back in to culture and all that and the Greek myths of people slaying their fathers and marrying their mothers, it's been part of the landscape right across every culture. It's always been there. It's just that now, people talk about it more.
"Because we found it so distasteful, historically we have created a wall of silence around it."
To research the subject he stuck to academic texts and talking to victims.
"I was determined I wasn't going to go on the internet. You can expose yourself to child porn without even knowing what you're doing. Pete Townshend got into trouble that way.
"I didn't want to research paedophiles and what they did and the operation of these groups. I went to police and social workers for that information. And I went to survivors' group meetings for the nuts and bolts of how people were affected."
Did they know who you were and what you were doing?
"Realising you're a novelist rather than a journalist they were very forthcoming. Because you're not looking for specific details."
But he's careful that potential readers aren't put off by the subject matter.
"It's also an existential thriller."
Madeleine McCann's disappearance came midway through writing Crime, forcing him to shut down for a period.
"This was something that was really happening in people's lives And the way the media were operating was quite spooky in a way. And still is."
"The way the mother is either a saint or this witch. The horrible thing is no matter how it pans out she will actually be seen as one or the other."

It was while the Edinburgh-born writer was working for his local council that he penned Trainspotting. Published in 1993, the story of a group of Edinburgh junkies mostly written in dialect, would two years later launch the film career of Ewan McGregor.
Commercially, Welsh has never matched its success. And he knows that Crime is unlikely to, either.
"It gave me a chance to what I wanted to do. It opened a lot of doors and alleviated a lot of financial problems."
But every novel that followed would be compared to it - which was annoying, he says.
"For a long while I wanted to stand back from it but now I'm quite enjoying embracing it again. So I do feel quite proud of it.
"I'll always be the Trainspotting guy. And it's nice but I have written books that are perhaps better than that. But I don't think there'll be one that has the same impact."
Welsh, who has never visited Nottingham - even though he is a big Shane Meadows fan - turns 50 in September but isn't concerned about getting old. Even if his work seems to be rooted in youth culture.
"I never really thought of it like that. I'm interested in culture in general. And I think most culture is generated by youth."
Though he admits that, as far as hip hop culture is concerned, he's an outsider.
Maybe had he children he'd be closer to it?
"But then I probably wouldn't have had the time to do what I do now. And I know friends with kids and they find it quite impenetrable."
He had a dabble with music as a youth in London, playing with punk bands The Pubic Lice and Stairway 13.
"I never saw the Pistols. I saw The Clash, The Ramones and the Stranglers. But I'd see more of 999, UK Subs and all that kind of stuff."
Knowing your propensity for drink and drugs, do you think had your bands made it, you'd be dead by now?
"I don't think there was much danger of that happening with the music we were playing," he laughs.
"Yeah. I think so. I think it would have been very difficult for me. Almost impossible in fact."

Crime by Irvine Welsh is published by Jonathan Cape, price £12.99. Irvine Welsh will be in conversation with Nicola Monaghan at Broadway Cinema on Thursday July 10

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