Page File Irvine Welsh has maintained a phenomenal work rate and consistency over the last two decades. A Decent Ride is his new novel and reprises one of his characters from previous works: "Juice" Terry Lawson who Welsh aficionados will remember as the incorrigibly priapic one in Glue and Porno.
The novel opens with Terry attending a friend’s funeral and giving an honest, if poorly received, eulogy of his dear, departed friend.
Terry works as a taxi driver and picks up US reality TV star Ronald Checker, who is on a mission to collect vintage Scotch. Terry also rescues a female suicidal playwright from the Forth Bridge, and manages to shag the will to live back into her.
Life seems sweet for Lawson, all he wants is a decent ride and he gets plenty: “There’s some fresh minge oan offer! A ginger burd’n’aw ... cannae wait tae see if the rug matches the curtains”.
Lawson is no slouch in the oral department either: “This tongue could take the crumbs oot the bottom of a Pringle’s tube”. Welsh even adds a little extra to that most over-described of acts: “She makes a slutty, evil face n we’re baith screamin n tearin away like some cunt had poured petrol oan us n set us alight n time slows down like a car crash ... another way ay saying a decent ride”.
Midway through the book our hero has a heart attack, is put on drugs and loses the use of his cock, changing his perceptions radically: “Now that he can’t shag her, all he can see is hassle and need”.
At this point Welsh introduces Terry’s member as a character, much as he did The Tapeworm in Filth, though more briefly and not as effectively. The author is always at his best when the farce drops and the invective starts: “N it’s no like England, whaire it’s jist for posh cunts, this is Scotland ... wir fightin tae become a real nation, no a fuckin poxy Fourth Reich ay the rich like they’ve settled for down south.”
And Lawson is also better riled: “So this is how cunts who fucking well never shag live, a lifetime ay impotence, resentment, anger and frustration. Nae fuckin exuberance in life, forced to become an internet troll or a miserable drunk in a boozer".
This is vintage Welsh, one of the few writers able to provoke a belly laugh seemingly on a whim and as politically incorrect as ever.
Some may feel that he is returning to his comfort zone, that his portrayal of scheming schemies is a worn-out cliche, but Welsh is a great comic novelist and A Decent Ride is a good sex farce which Welsh can knock out with his eyes shut. He becomes a great novelist only when there is an underlying tragedy, like Tommy in Trainspotting or Gally in Glue.
Welsh is so good, perhaps our expectations are too much. A Decent Ride is a decent read, but this fella’s works are daubed with the widest of brushes and his characters are too often cartoons: well drawn, but I always get the impression Welsh is better than this, that his place is alongside Dostoevsky, Burroughs or Celine, yet he settles for Shameless, Viz and Rab C.
Title A Decent Ride
Publisher Random House
Release date Available to pre-order 16 April (UK)
Price £8.98 (Ebook) / £12.99 (Hardback)