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Redemption in trousers | The West Australian

The fab four of Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson, Francis “Franco” Begbie and Daniel “Spud” Murphy are no more.

Scottish writer Irvine Welsh first introduced readers to the mad men from Leith in his debut novel Trainspotting in 1993.

Three years after its release, the book was adapted into a highly successful film of the same name directed by Danny Boyle.

Welsh wrote the sequel Porno in 2002 but it wasn’t until last year that the film T2: Trainspotting, based on the follow-up book, made it on to the screen.

“We were scared to do Trainspotting 2 for so long because we didn’t want to trash the legacy,” Welsh says on the phone from Queensland, where he was attending the Brisbane Writers Festival.

“It actually worked in our favour because if we’d done Trainspotting 2 straight away as Porno, when we had originally intended to do it, it would still be another youth movie.”

This year, Welsh published the last book in the trilogy. Dead Men’s Trousers is a tale of redemption following the four dysfunctional Scotsmen as they continue to fight their demons.

“The first one was about betrayal and the second one was about revenge, then redemption kind of follows, it’s almost like a holy trinity,” he says.

“It came out of working on the movie. We were working on T2 and I was hanging out with (screenwriter) John Hodge and Danny Boyle and (producer) Andrew Macdonald.

“We had a flat in Edinburgh that we were staying in and we were hanging out in town and we were talking about the characters and I started to get my own sense of what would happen to them, what would they be doing now basically.”

Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) Begbie (Robert Carlyle) in T2: Trainspotting.Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) Begbie (Robert Carlyle) in T2: Trainspotting.
Camera IconRenton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) Begbie (Robert Carlyle) in T2: Trainspotting.

There will never be a another novel featuring all four protagonists because Welsh sent one 4-feet under.

“I thought that there’s no way all these guys would’ve survived this length of time,” he says.

“So I wrote four scenarios about which one would die and I decided on the one in the book. I decided I’d go with the one that would make me the saddest.”

Fans of the series will find Welsh’s decision to kill off a much-loved character heartbreaking but he hasn’t ruled out writing about them in some form in the future

“I think fictional characters never really die anyway, you can do prequels and all that kind of stuff. So you can bring them back, you don’t have to write in real time,” he says.

Initially when he was writing the gritty works Welsh, who grew up in housing schemes around Edinburgh, identified with antihero Renton.

“I could see a lot of myself in the younger Renton,” he says. “Maybe not so much now because you develop a kind of fictional life for them, you add to them as composites more but you see your behaviour in all of them really.”

But Welsh has found that it’s the enraged Begbie who people about town seem to identify with, all too sure they know who the impetus is for the ex-jailbird.

“Every nutter in Edinburgh thinks that Begbie is based on them and the younger ones think that Begbie is based on their dad,” he says. “It’s just one of these things that you have to live with.”

Known for writing in a raw Scottish dialect, Welsh also doesn’t like to airbrush characters or situations, many of which involve heroin addiction, sex and violence.

“I always have that kind of ‘what will my mother think’ test,” he says.

“I think ‘is this going to embarrass the f… out of my mother’ and I think ‘is it going to make me feel really awkward and horrible’.

“I think when I have that horrible, awkward, nauseous feeling of social embarrassment I think ‘perfect, this is working’ so I go with that.”

Welsh admits he can be accused of using racism, sexism, drug addiction and prostitution as entertainment but for him there’s more to his stories.

“I’m really interested in the way that people’s choices are prescribed by all the things that happen in society,” he explains.

“Things that happen politically, economically, that prescribe people’s choices and why when people are in a de-powered situation they invariably compound that by making the wrong choices again.

“I’ve done it myself in the past and I’ve seen other people do it and it really interests me as a kind of phenomenon.”

One wrong choice US-based Welsh isn’t willing to make is to turn over film adaptations of his novels to just anyone.

“Anything that’s like Trainspotting and film-related for me, it happens with Danny or not at all basically,” he says.

“I think it is a tall order to do three good movies — nobody remembers The Godfather III or Terminator 3 it’s very hard to do … so it might be a while before I get the bottle to even think about that.”

While he’s in no hurry to make Dead Men’s Trousers into a movie, Welsh is keeping very busy. “I’ve got a new novel that I’m working on, I’ve got about three different TV projects and a couple of film projects,” he says. “So I’m motoring on.”

Dead Men’s Trousers (Penguin Random House) is out now.

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