Monday, October 26, 2009

Crime by Irvine Welsh

I’ve always been a big Irvine Welsh fan, but I must admit to being severely bummed out by last year’s If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work. I had to put it down ¼ of the way through and had a sinking feeling that either he had totally lost it, or I had been wrong for liking him in the first place. My wife got me Crime for Father’s Day this year and I’ve been avoiding it for fear of not liking it. I finally picked it up and let me say, I couldn’t be more pleased. I loved this book.

The book exhibits a refreshing maturity. So many of Welsh’s early works are steeped in a youthful exuberance--a headlong dash into youth culture. And that’s fine. But Welsh is older now, as is much of his audience. Crime is steeped with middle-aged fragility. I loved that. It seems honest. Rather than re-living a storied, debauched past, Crime addresses concerns one faces when the party is over.

Crime focuses on Ray Lennox, an Edinburgh cop, obsessed with tracking down pedophiles. Lennox has gone off the rails following a case that has gone bad. In classic Welsh form, drug and drinking binges abound. Lennox heads to Miami to detox with his bride-to-be. Their hope for r & r in the Sunshine State quickly goes South. After a pre-marital quarrel, Lennox takes off on a bender and gets hooked up with an unsavory batch of characters. Lennox can’t leave well enough alone and, mercenary-style, tries to solve the problems of these shady people he barely knows. Full of good intentions but rife with horrid judgments, things go from bad to worse and the shit thickens frighteningly as Lennox gets immersed in the dirt and grime he tried to leave back in Edinburgh.

But the guts and gore aside, Lennox takes a journey deep inside himself--a journey where he needs to face all the misgivings, shame, and self-loathing in his own life. On the outside, he’s a tough Scottish cop, in control of all that he sees. On the inside, he’s falling apart. He’s too much of a tough guy to admit it or to seek out the help he so desperately needs. Will he sink into the same old patterns, or will he emerge a stronger, better, more fully realized person?

Like most of Welsh’s material there’s a lot of degradation, but as the grit falls away, you’re left with characters in the throes of mid-life growing pains. Crime is filled with people navigating the world in the best way they can. Not always with grace, but with heart.

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