A blast from the past: eight doses of Scotsploitation and ultraviolence from Welsh’s poisonous pen (Crime, 2008, etc.).
While the characters who populate his novels are aging far from gracefully, fans will still likely be happy to see their familiar faces in this collection of 1990s work rescued from various anthologies and now-defunct magazines. Welsh also contributes a new story, “I Am Miami,” the most substantive and best-written of the lot. It demonstrates several of the author’s strengths, simultaneously drawing an unkindly, realistic portrait of an aging, widowed schoolteacher, Albert Black, and disrupting his elegiac reflections with the sudden appearance of two riotous characters from Glue (2001), “Juice” Terry Lawson and Carl Ewart, now a world-famous DJ known as N-Sign. Though Black beat the boys mercilessly in school, they remember him quite differently. In a profane, hilarious exclamation, Lawson declares he always thought he’d want to give his former schoolmaster a right good kicking, but with a heroic dose of Ecstasy kicking in, he just wants to hug the old man. Drugs also figure prominently in “The State of the Party,” which combines Welsh’s gift for depicting the ravages of heroin use with gleefully black humor as two baked junkies play an Edinburgh-flavored version of Weekend at Bernie’s with their late comrade. Another recurring cast member, psychotic Francis Begbie from Trainspotting, narrates the blasphemous “Elspeth’s Boyfriend,” during which Franco can’t resist ruining Christmas by assaulting the titular offender. Another standout is the notorious “Catholic Guilt (You Know You Love It),” an uncomfortable parable about a homophobic street thug who gets his just desserts. For something completely different, there’s “The Rosewell Incident,” a rare venture into science fiction during which aliens who adopt an Edinburgh brogue have trouble getting their point across.
The stories are dated, true, but even Welsh’s leftovers still have enough whiplash to leave a mark.