James Walton

Scabrous lyricism

In a review of A Decent Ride, James Walton finds that Irvine Welsh is not a writer who’s mellowing with age

Irvine Welsh, I think it’s safe to say, is not a writer who’s mellowing with age. His latest book sees the return of ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson from the novel Glue and the short story ‘I Am Miami’ — now an Edinburgh taxi-driver in his mid-forties but still, in the face of some competition, possibly the most priapic character Welsh has ever created. With a penis he understandably nicknames ‘Auld Faithful’ and an unshakeable faith in the power of porridge (‘Complex carbs: set ye up fir a day’s shaggin’), Terry begins his latest adventures by pulling a grieving relative at a funeral — and, on the way home afterwards, two young American tourists. At one point he does go to a sex-addiction meeting, but only in the belief that the women there are guaranteed to be up for it.

No wonder that for a while A Decent Ride looks as if it might resemble an extended prose version of Sid the Sexist from Viz comic — except that Terry’s chat-up lines (‘Ah’m hung like a pit pony that wisnae shy in foalhood when the carrots wir gittin dished oot’) appear to work. Fortunately, while you’d be hard pressed to call this a subtle novel, it does turn out to be far more than that.

There is, for example, the awkward fact that Terry is extremely good company: funny, often quite kind and with a genuine, if highly individual, sense of morality. (In one scene, he talks a young woman out of suicide — and only partly because ‘Naebody in thair right mind wants tae see good fanny gaun tae waste.’) He can even be touchingly sentimental:

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