Irvine Welsh’s accent and laidback Leith delivery have remained intact during a prolonged period of wandering, living in London, Dublin, Miami and Chicago. Since he burst onto the literary scene with his debut novel Trainspotting 28 years ago readers have known his voice has a strong sense of place.

“I didn’t have any ambition to be a Scottish vernacular writer, for want of a better term” he says. “It’s just that when I did the first draught of Trainspotting, it seemed very flat in standard English. It seemed almost pretentious.

“People weren’t thinking like that and I couldn’t see their internal thought process beginning like that. They certainly weren’t sounding like that.

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“It didn’t really work. I needed to go back to thinking about how people actually spoke and communicated and the rhythms and the themes and the words people used, the repetition and the mixture of all these different speech patterns, from traveller words to Doric, the mixed bag that was the Edinburgh scheme vernacular.”

“I think, if you just grew up in that, you’re just used to it. There’s nothing really weird about it. It’s just ubiquitous. And when you see it in art or entertainment, it’s a bit more shocking because you’re not used to hearing these voices. For me, it was people like McIlvanney and Kelman; they had either the voice or the sensibility of working-class Scotland. It’s strange seeing things like that on a page.

“For such a long time, the Scottish voice has been presented as quite monolithic and generic. I tell people in England or America that if you go out of Edinburgh into East Lothian or Fife, the accent and language changes. It’s to Scotland’s credit that such a small country can produce such diversity.”

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After 10 years living in the United States Irvine is back home on familiar streets. During that decade he wrote a prequel to Trainspotting and gave solo book outings to two favourite characters from his literary universe – Juice Terry in A Decent Ride, Francis Begbie in The Blade Artist.

There have been screenplays for short films, multiple television pitches and three feature films – Filth, T2 Trainspotting, Creation Stories – which, for a Scottish writer, must be considered prolific. 

Irvine is currently embroiled in the filming of a six-part series for streaming service BritBox. It’s been widely presumed this is an adaptation of his novel Crime, but since that book was largely set in Miami, why is production based between Glasgow and Edinburgh?

“We didn’t have the money to shoot it in Miami so what we’ve done is we’ve taken the backstory of Crime, which is the story of Lennox getting f***ed up by a serial killer. It’s all set in Edinburgh, basically. It’s almost like the prequel to the book.”

DI Ray Lennox will be played by former Taggart star Dougray Scott, with a supporting cast including Angela Griffin, Ken Stott, Joanna Vanderham and James Sives.

Irvine is working on the script with frequent collaborator Dean Kavanagh. “We are writing it right up until we shoot,” he explains. “We try to write as much around the actors as possible and write around the locations, because you can’t always get the locations you want, you have to change the script. It’s a big production and a lot of people have their say. You have to be a team player with television. And you write right up until the camera rolls.”

“It is great. I’m lucky that I’ve got Dean and the two of us work together really well; we can dove-tail it. It is good fun and it’s been an interesting process to work in.

“I see some of the same faces on the set that were there with Trainspotting 2, Filth and Trainspotting. You have an almost 30-year relationship with them. It tends to be the same crew that you use, mostly Glasgow-based. Then there are the casting directors, the set designers and the costume people. It’s great to have a lot of these people coming back into the orbit again.”

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I ask about how the real-life version of Edinburgh he now inhabits compares to his imagined version. With prolonged exposure over lockdown, does he see a change in the city? “I don’t think you experience life in that way. I think people in general, we tend to immerse in the world that we’re in and we don’t really notice the difference between that and our imagined world. We’re not really that reflective. To me, things haven’t really changed that much. I walk down Leith Walk and the tramlines are going in, a lot of the shops are more diverse now, but it’s been a gradual thing for me so I’m not really aware of it.

“I tend to go out there and just get on with life and immerse myself in Edinburgh. I’m not the kind of writer who sits with a Moleskine notebook in their top pocket and sees something and jots it down as a reference.

“Sometimes I get the wrong names of streets and the wrong names of monuments and all that. I like to keep them in. I like it to be partly a real Edinburgh, partly my imagined Edinburgh, or London or wherever it is I’m writing from. I think it’s quite nice.

“It’s fiction anyway and I’m not massively interested in authenticating every single detail. I like my impressionistic view of it.”

He continues to gravitate towards “Leith Walk and Junction Street and The Shore and all that”.

“I go up and down the Walk all the time, just running into people. It’s always quite inspiring. I’ve still got a lot of friends who live in the area. Pubs like Robbie’s and The Alhambra, these traditional boozers.

“There’s some great new spots as well. Leith Arches is a fabulous space with a big bar and good food.

“Leith Depot’s relatively new and that’s pretty cool. You get good music. So there is quite a nice blend.

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“There’s also a lot of really horrible old pubs that have gone and I don’t lament that. Because I like good s***hole pubs that are full of character but there’s ones that are just revolting as well.

“So I don’t mind them being replaced. I’m not a Luddite that sees everything shiny in the past but there’s some beautiful bars on the Walk as well. The Central’s a beautiful old pub, and The Windsor’s a beautiful old pub”

Surely as an elder statesman of the national literary scene he can also visit the salubrious salons of Edinburgh and chat about rugby with the denizens of the New Town?

“I still prefer ageing enfant terrible as my designation, if you please. Yeah, well my girlfriend’s got a pad up at the New Town so I go there quite a bit. But I don’t talk rugby.”