The waiting is over. CHOOSE LIFE, CHOOSE LEITH: Trainspotting on Location is on the shelves from this weekend. Pure gutted though I am to be leaving my many friends among the massed ranks of unpublished authors, it’s pure nice to be published at last.
Of course, it has morphed in the long process. It’s about lots of things, but heroin is always there, never far away. I say that drug abuse – any drug – is a symptom of social malfunction, and the collision between shooting up in Muirhouse with the arrival of HIV was a collision waiting to happen. But there’s more to Trainspotting than that. My book brings out structures and tensions that have never been opened up. Welsh used music, location and philosophy in clever ways to spring Renton from the junkie graveyard of Leith Central Station and West Granton Crescent to crossing the sea to a new life in Amsterdam. And you can’t engage with Trainspotting without getting a wee bit creative yourself: I have re-worked one episode as a punk rant, and I suggest other episodes could have the same treatment.
And then there’s Trainspotting the play and Trainspotting the film, different yet feeding off each other. It has been fascinating to open up the book, the play and the film in their own environments and see how they have stood the test of time. They go round the world. The story belongs everywhere. Heroin is a universal experience. But it started here. The brand is a Leith brand. At the end of my book I say that Trainspotting and Irvine Welsh will always be associated with Leith just as Wuthering Heights and Emily Bronte will always be associated with the Yorkshire Pennines.
Here’s an extract from my little talk at the launch:
I have to thank the people at Luath Press… mostly I have to thank Gavin MacDougall, Director. I played club hockey with him twenty years ago. He came from a swanky club in Surrey, and it must have been a bit of a disappointment to him to come down to my level. I remember giving him a lift home after a game and he told me he and his wife had taken over a publishing business. I was impressed. About five or six years ago, I took him a draft of what I had knocked up, and he got a young fellow from Robert Gordon’s on a placement with him, Thomas Ross, to look at it and help me. It was mince, I recognise that now, Gavin, and you couldn’t take it further. As we parted company, on good terms, you said ‘I hope you finish your project. I think you should.’ That was a kind and generous thing to say when the prospect of the business coming your way had disappeared. It was in much better shape when I came back with it more recently, and you have taken it on. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, in this weekend press, never mind the literary mags and supps, it should be a news item with a screaming headline: LUATH PRESS DOES IT AGAIN. Only a few months ago Luath published POVERTY SAFARI by Darren McGarvey. If you haven’t come across McGarvey and his book, don’t worry, you will. It won the Orwell Prize the other week, with the chair of the panel and lots of commentators saying that Orwell himself would approve of this expose of the effects of persistent poverty on the lives of people and communities. Now Luath is publishing this, CHOOSE LIFE. CHOOSE LEITH, an entirely different take on the basically the same subject. A recurring theme of my book is that widespread, out-of-control drug abuse – any drug – is a symptom of social malfunction. Yes, we are ambitious for this book, and the only thing I am pissed off about is that this boy McGarvey has jiggered any idea I might have had of getting the Best First Book of the Year Award.
Click here for more about the book from the publisher, Luath Press.