Drugs, whores, sound like a lower Leith cabbie, commit extreme acts of violence, talk football, enact endless plots of revenge, and leave you breathless and swirling with disgust and admiration.
But unlike previous efforts, including Trainspotting, which present us with compelling but less than fully developed stories, Filth represents an exponential increase in Welshian attention span, with four hundred pages devoted to the fine psychological chiselling of the protagonist, a character who, if not a representative figure of the age, is not easily forgotten.
Bruce Robertson is a pig in every sense of the word; a viscous, racist, woman beating cop with assrash and tapeworms whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of c*nt and all purpose sadism.
You are supposed to hate him, and hate him you do, until in the best tradition of Flannery O’Conner and her Alabama crackers, Welsh pulls off the remarkable job of humanizing him. Not merely with easy references to a miserable childhood – although he was forced to eat coal, watch his baby brother get buried alive, and witness the electrocution of his first love – but also through an impressively nuanced exploration into the British maze of inter- and intra-class dynamics that Welsh knows so well.
Filth also continues Welsh’s project of charting the changing nature of institutional and class politics in New Labour Britain. This is done in his trademarked raw, piss-on-prose style and guided by proud proletarian instincts; the Billy Bragg of the Booker Prize.
Welsh is way past needing vindication, but this novel hints of a subtle maturation and a future corpus that promises to be as enduring and refreshing as his work of the last six years. The next time some snod tries to tell you that Welsh writes ‘entertainment’ and not literature, punch him in the f*ckin’ face.