‘DEAD MEN’S TROUSERS’ by IRVINE WELSH (book review) - C. T. Herron

When ah wiz but a wee teenager at sixteen years auld, the year two thoosand, ah moved back tae Scotland eftir a brief hiatus in Newcastle n’ ah saw the movie Trainspotting, great fuckin movie. But even then ah wiz eywiz maire interested in books than fulms, so when ah saw an omnibus collection o’ Irvine Welsh books whit mah sister’s boyfriend hud, ah pilfered thum alang wi a bit fur a few joints. The omnibus included ‘Marabou Stork Nightmares’, ‘The Acid Hoose’, n’ o’course ‘Trainspotting’. ‘Trainspotting’ wiz set in Edinburgh, a sprawling necropolis built on the bones o’ its dead, inhabited, it seemed, by miscreants, mendicants and malcontents. Mah kinday people! Ah stayed in Ayrshire near Glesga, so ah could relate. What had begun, though ah didnae ken it at the time, wiz a lifelong relationship wi fower, intense, reprehensible, but lovable characters: Spud, Sick Boy, Renton, but maist o’ aw, Sir Francis Begbie. 

Coming fae a very violent family and a violent childhood ah guess ah could relate to Begbie, but to be fair, there’s a wee bit o’ me in each o’ the fower protagonists, n’ ah guess maist people get that sense, it’s whit makes em so relatable, despite being a bunch o’ filthy smackheads and an unhinged dipsomaniacal psychopath. Plus, anybody that lives in Scotland knows, or has met a Begbie, or three, n’ a dozen or sae Spuds, n’ a Sick Boy or two - they lurk on every street corner in Scotland’s cities, like gargoyles hingin aff the very architecture. Every part o’ yer darkside has an affinity wi each wan ay thum. The violent nutter in ye is Franco, the pathetic addict in ye is Danny Boy, the lascivious, licentious, libidinous sex fiend in ye is Simon, n’ the loser or underachiever in ye strivin tae dae mair is Mark. 


The first time ah lived in Scotland when ah wiz aboot eight I learned the Scottish language fae readin Oor Wullie and the Broons, the second time ah lived there in mah late teens ah learned it fae readin Irvine Welsh. Since mah first encounter wi his work, ah huv bought every single book Welsh has released, they aw sit proudly on mah bookshelf wi their colourful spines. My favourites are ‘Filth’ n’ ‘Bedroom Secrets of the Masterchefs’, but nuttin beats catchin up wi the Trainspotting crew on their various adventures throughout ‘Porno’, ‘Skagboys’, a short Begbie story in ‘Reheated Cabbage’, Franco’s ain book ‘Blade Merchant’ and maist recently ‘Dead Men’s Troosers’. 

‘Trainspotting’ ah’ve read thrice, ‘Porno’ twice, ah c’n really relate tae ‘Skagboyscos’ it opens wi the mining strikes, when ah wiz born in ’84 and is aw set back then when Rents an the boys were young uns. ‘Blade Merchant’ wiz brilliant, watching the transformation ay wan o’ mah fave literary characters o’ aw time, from an uncontrollable heidcase intae summit far maire dangerous, a cold n’ calculatin psychopath, in control o’ ehs actions. 

Begbie’s metamorphosis continues through ‘Dead Men’s Troosers’, n’ the book’s title is also an acronym fer the drug o’ choice in it, wan o’ mah personal faves… DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). Which is no actually a drug, but a genuine portal intae another dimension… That might sound like poppycock tae ye, but ah defy anybody tae huv a hit o’ DMT n’ tell me ethirwize! Ye c’n watch a documentary on Netflix cawed ‘DMT: The Spirit Molecule’ n’aw if ye dinnae believe me, n’ have a bunch o’ scientists explain it tae ye. Yer no tripping when ye take DMT, yer seeing intae the other layers o’ reality that the human senses are no wired tae tap intae normally, yer no hallucinatin, yer un-hallucinatin! N’ those “mechanical elves” everywan sees independently, what’s that aw aboot!? DMT’s the fuckin bizness!! So, glad ah wiz, to see Spud and co. participating in the spirit molecule. 

Welsh is a master raconteur, an unorthodox and genius writer, and has eywiz bin a huge inspiration tae me as an aspiring writer mahsel, n’ his latest work is wan o’ his finest yet! As aw weyz wi the ‘Trainspotting’ series ah couldnae put the book doon until ah hud assimilated evry single word fae it. Engrossed ah wiz. Ah wiz tannin it page-by-page at a rate Renton, Sick Boy n’ Spud wid get through a score o’ heroin back in their junkie days. 

The development of each character is beautiful, the storytelling both gritty as ye’d expect and hilarious at the same time (the scene wi Spud an the dug oan the train in Europe hud me in stitches). Irvine’s writing comes as eywiz wi a hit ay humour, a line ay social political commentary, a toke ay realism an a healthy injection ay genius wit.  

Wan o’ the fower main characters dies in ‘Dead Men’s Troosers’, ah wiz shitein mahsel in case it wiz Begbie, n’ mebbe it wiz, mebbe it wiznae, obviously ah’m no gonnae spoil it fer ye. Suffice to say, the way the character does die is done unexpectedly (despite him tellin ye it’s comin) n’ wi a bit o’ closure as the book comes full circle nicely, and ends the way ye might expect it tae end, but really the only way it could end.  

A magnificent read fae stert tae feenish, if ye huvnae read any o’ the ‘Trainspotting’ books yer sairely missin oot. Stert wi the first wan and work yer way tae this last wan, n’ ye willnae be disappointed by a single page ay it, wan o’ the greatest stories eyir told, n’ tae think, it’s just aboot a bunch o’ junkies fae Leith, ordinary crooks, so relatable that ye literally know thum, they’re yir mates! I live right next to Ibrox stadium n’ the boys go there in the book to watch fitba matches, so they literally walk right aff the page and intae my life! Mental. 

Ah dinnae ken if Irvine’s gonna write any maire in the ‘Trainspotting’ series, ah dinnae think sae, but ah hope he wull, but if he disnae he’s done more than enough as it is, a writer that has truly enriched my life, since the day ah read Trainspotting by um when ah wiz sixteen, tae my 34th birthday a couple o’ weeks ago when ah read my fifteenth book by um (which Spence bought me as a prezzie). Wan ay the best writers o’ the 21st century, wan ay Scotland’s greatest literary icons (up there wi Alasdair Gray) and wan ay mah toap ten writers o’ aw time! Cheers fur the gid times Irvine (and the bad)!

Your Devoted Fan, 

 C.T Herron (NHC Gonzo Division)