"Reheated Cabbage" gives us seven previously uncollected short stories and one never published novella by Irvine Welsh, international best selling author known as the master of "Scotsploitation." Welsh, author of ten previous works of fiction, including Porno
, and the classic Trainspotting
that was adapted into the 1996 international art house hit of the same name (Trainspotting [DVD] [1996
]), has culled the stories from out-of- print journals and magazines. They are all set in Edinburgh, Scotland, but it sure isn't the tourists' Edinburgh: most of Welsh's characters appear to be out of work layabouts from the working class port area of Leith: one of them makes a crack about the working class origin bona fides of Edinburgh's current patron saint, Sir Sean Connery, who hails from the now-gentrifying area of the city known as Fountainbridge.
Could Welsh be considered also a practitioner of the current Scottish school of tartan noir writing? I would say so: most of these stories are violent, bloody, grisly, and laced with profanity: yet they are scathingly funny, with the darkest of Scots humor. His characters, none of whom seem to be burdened with jobs, are still, somehow, getting lots and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The stories are largely written in dialect, for which the author has a pitch perfect ear: they are somewhat more difficult to read through than I, for one, would have liked, but, believe me, I haven't a drop of Scots blood, and I didn't find them that difficult. The author's imagination doesn't flag; stories rise to the heights of absurdity, and fall to the depths of depravity. The author's command of the ambiance of his home city is, of course, absolute.
Fans of the author's previous work will find some familiar faces in this collection. The novella, "I Am Miami," which does seem to present an unexpected softer side of the author, reacquaints us with "Juice" Terry Lawson and now internationally famous DJ Carl Ewart, the main characters from the 2001 "Glue," as they meet up with, in Miami, their old enemy and schoolteacher Albert Black, now retired. The volatile drunk Francis Begbie, of "Trainspotting," is back, angry as ever, as star and narrator of "Elspeth's Boyfriend." In "State of the Party," two friends high on LSD drag the corpse of a recently overdosed young friend across town, and get into a fight with some heat-seeking soccer hooligans. In "Victor Spoils," Gavin and Victor fight over a young woman getting her teeth pulled, as the dentist is sexually aroused by her mouth. In "A Fault on the Line," a young husband whose wife is emergency-room bound after losing her legs to a train station accident, wants only to be dropped off at home so he can catch the day's big game, Hibs versus Herts. In "The Rosewell Incident," a venture into science fiction, we learn why the inter-galactic aliens think in and speak the Scots inflected English of these young men, and plan to put them in charge of the planet.
Welsh's world isn't for everyone, what with one thing and another, but for those seeking the offbeat and the unexpected, here it is, and welcome to it. I don't think I'd personally want to meet any of these young men, but they sure are fun within the pages of a book.