The growing debate over gun killings in the United States under Donald Trump’s presidency is to inspire Irvine Welsh’s next novel, he has revealed.
The best-selling Scottish author is about to tackle the generational schisms that he says have opened up over incidents like the Mandalay Bay shooting in Los Angeles.
Edinburgh-born Welsh, who is now based in Miami, has admitted he hopes Mr Trump avoids impeachment and serves a full term to avoid spoiling the plot of the book, which is set in an “imagined future” America in 2019.
He was speaking after arriving back in his native Leith, where he will launch his latest novel, Dead Men’s Trousers, which chart the final escapades of his Trainspotting characters, 25 years on from the groundbreaking original.
Welsh has warned that his famous creations - Renton, Spud, Begbie and Sick Boy - are “unlikely” to make it onto the big screen again - despite saying he felt he had “no option” but to write a final book about them. He believes the team behind the two hit movies, himself included, would not have the “collective bottle” to attempt a third.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the new novel today, the author revealed that the loss of a number of family members and friends in Edinburgh had prompted him to kill off one of his much-loved characters.
Welsh, whose latest book is published on 29 March, said he has completed a rough draft of his next, as yet un-named novel, which he insists will be “very different” to Dead Men’s Trousers.
He said: “It’s actually set in an imagined future in Trump’s America next year, when it will hopefully come out. There is no way that I can’t write that book at the moment. It starts off with the Mandalay Bay shootings and involves a fictitious set of characters who react to it and ends with a fictitious shooting two years later.
“It’s really about the unhealed wounds in American society and the idea of a whole nation being under some degree of post-traumatic stress that is generated by these things. It’s about three different generations of the one family, and how they react and cope with everything that is going on.
“America under Trump is a bit like Britain under Brexit. On the one hand, people are getting on their lives, but on the other you’re aware of this menace in the background.”
Welsh said that the making of last year’s long-awaited sequel, T2: Trainspotting, had been the impetus for him to return to the characters in print – along with Hibernian’s hoodoo-busting Scottish Cup Final victory.
The new book, set two years ago against the backdrop of Hibs’ Hampden triumph and the Brexit referendum vote, sees Renton, now a jet-setting manager of international DJs, run into psychotic arch-nemesis Begbie on a flight, only to discover he has reinvented himself as a successful artist. Before long the four characters are embroiled in a new series of exploits. However Welsh said he was wary of attempts to get a third film off the ground.
He said: “The big issue is we’ve two really good, successful films. We did a fantastic original film and a really decent sequel. When you think about The Godfather or Terminator, nobody ever thinks about the third film. To do a holy trinity and get a third one right is a massive challenge. I can’t think of a third film that is successful. I think we should quit while we are ahead. I don’t know if we have the bottle collectively. I think it is unlikely.”
Welsh revived the character of Begbie two years ago for the novel, The Blade Artist, but said it was the lengthy talks before filming T2 that persuaded him the characters were worthy of another book.
The impasse over a sequel was only broken when Welsh, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge hired a flat near Edinburgh Castle to thrash out ideas.
Welsh said: “We were discussing the characters and the storyline for months. When we hired that flat up at the castle all we were talking about was the characters, and about Edinburgh and how it has changed. I was completely immersed in that world. I felt that I just had to write out these characters.
“Sometimes I think you’ve got no choice when you’re a writer. With film and TV, a lot of people have to say ‘yes’ at the one time to make a project happen. When you’re writing a book you’re on your own. You just think: ‘This is the book that I have to write at this point in time. This is what is coalescing within me.’”
Welsh revealed he was filming his T2 scenes with Robert Carlyle just hours before Hibs defeated Rangers, an event which sparks a rare reunion of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie in the new novel.
Welsh said: “This was the last time that I could see these characters doing anything together as a group. I’ve got a view of my own network of friends, which is very much based on the 1980s. I’ve not actually lived in Edinburgh consistently since I was a teenager. I’m not part of their ongoing history. You think they’re all still best mates, but they’ve not been for years.
“I felt that the one thing that would bring the characters together would be Hibs winning the Scottish Cup. In some ways, it was a metaphor for these characters. When you get to a certain age you feel: ‘Let’s just let go of all this nonsense, hurt and pain.’ The first book was really about betrayal and the second about revenge. It made sense for this book to be about redemption, but in a really twisted way”