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4.0 14
by Irvine Welsh

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With the Christmas season upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of Edinburgh's finest is gearing up socially—kicking things off with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam.
There are some sizable flies in the ointment, though: a missing wife and child, a nagging cocaine habit, some painful below-the-belt eczema, and a string of demanding


With the Christmas season upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of Edinburgh's finest is gearing up socially—kicking things off with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam.
There are some sizable flies in the ointment, though: a missing wife and child, a nagging cocaine habit, some painful below-the-belt eczema, and a string of demanding extramarital affairs. The last thing Robertson needs is a messy, racially fraught murder, even if it means overtime—and the opportunity to clinch the promotion he craves. Then there's that nutritionally demanding (and psychologically acute) intestinal parasite in his gut. Yes, things are going badly for this utterly corrupt tribune of the law, but in an Irvine Welsh novel nothing is ever so bad that it can't get a whole lot worse. . . .In Bruce Robertson Welsh has created one of the most compellingly misanthropic characters in contemporary fiction, in a dark and disturbing and often scabrously funny novel about the abuse of everything and everybody.
"Welsh writes with a skill, wit and compassion that amounts to genius. He is the best thing that has happened to British writing in decades."—Sunday Times [London] "[O]ne of the most significant writers in Britain. He writes with style, imagination, wit, and force, and in a voice which those alienated by much current fiction clearly want to hear."—Times Literary Supplement "Welsh writes with such vile, relentless intensity that he makes Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the French master of defilement, look like Little Miss Muffet. "—Courtney Weaver, The New York Times Book Review "The corrupt Edinburgh cop-antihero of Irvine Welsh's best novel since Trainspotting is an addictive personality in another sense: so appallingly powerful is his character that it's hard to put the book down....[T]he rapid-fire rhythm and pungent dialect of the dialogue carry the reader relentlessly toward the literally filthy denouement. "—Village Voice Literary Supplement, "Our 25 Favorite Books of 1998" "Welsh excels at making his trash-spewing bluecoat peculiarly funny and vulnerable—and you will never think of the words 'Dame Judi Dench' in the same way ever again. [Grade:] A-. "—Charles Winecoff, Entertainment Weekly

Editorial Reviews

Michael Garry Smout
Filth is far more coherent, consistent and better paced. Trainspotting was a collection of connecting anecdotes; Filth is a bona fide novel with a plot. Trainspotting was funny on the surface; Filth is far more sombre...it is a graphically vivid portrayal of class betrayal, misanthropy, and the corruption that comes with unchecked power, revealing far more about human passions than at first obvious and proving that Welsh is no one-book-wonder and far more deft at his art than is often given credit for. -- Barcelona Review
New York Magazine
. . .[R]eading Filth becomes an act of vicarious sadomasochism.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Another scabrous, lurid, blackly comic novel from America's favorite Scottish enfant terrible, this one does for present-day Edinburgh what James Ellroy does for 1950s Los Angeles.

Welsh begins with a detective's investigation into a murder -- the death of a Ghanaian ambassador's son -- and turns it into a vivid exploration of the detective's own twisted psyche and seedy milieu. Detective Bruce Robertson finds himself preoccupied not with the murder but with his own genital eczema, sadistic sexual antics involving any number of girlfriends and prostitutes, his increasingly chronic appetite for coke, alcohol and greasy fast food and, finally, the parasite that has taken up residence in his intestines.

Welsh effectively plays off Robertson's bilious narration with the coolly insistent voice of another entity -- the tapeworm, who seems to be the repository of Robertson's childhood memories and what is left of his superego -- as the detective spins out of control, wasting himself in increasingly risky games of erotic asphyxiation with one of his mistresses (ex-wife of another detective), machinations to undermine his colleagues, and misanthropic rage: "Criminals, spastics, niggers, strikers, thugs, I don't fucking well care, it all adds up to one thing: something to smash." Even for readers who have mastered Welsh's Scots dialect, such an eloquently nasty narrator can be exhausting.

As in the past, Welsh himself sometimes seems rather compromised as a satirist by the glee he takes in his characters' repulsiveness. Yet if this hypnotic chronicle of moral and psychological ruin (funnier and far more accessible than Welsh's last full-length novel, Marabou Stork Nightmares) fails to charm a wide readership, it will not disappoint devotees.

Charles Winecoff
Welsh excels at making his trash-spewing bluecoat peculiarly funny and vulnerable -- and you will never think of the words 'Dame Judi Dench' in the same way ever again. --Entertainment Weekly
Political, dangerous, and more important. . .a completely original, hilarious, and deeply affecting attack on the authoritarian mind.
Daniel Reitz
Caveat emptor: Irvine Welsh's new novel is called Filth, and the title does not mislead. After making a name for himself with Trainspotting, which featured heroin suppositories and filthy toilets, Welsh has, with his latest novel, earned the right to be called our foremost author of excretion.

Feces and other bodily emissions are a collective metaphor for the sick soul of Scotland, inhabited by the underbelly of the chronically grim working class, who shit out their youth, their dreams and their chances of future fulfillment. Filth chronicles the mid-level rise and low-level fall of Bruce Robertson, a detective sergeant in the Edinburgh Police Department, a cop who lives to manipulate and who feasts on a daily diet of violence, betrayal, adultery, racism, sexism, homophobia and autoerotic asphyxiation, with an occasional stint of cross-dressing and bestiality thrown into the mix. To Robertson, the world is made for sell-outs, for those who are smart enough to assess whatever side will be the winner of the moment, and he is determined to prove himself master of this universe. "The same rules apply," he mutters to himself over and over -- his rationalization for attempting to steal whatever opportunity comes by, particularly a coveted promotion to inspector.

Scorning the active investigation into a brutal, racially biased murder involving a diplomat's son, he instead takes a trip to Amsterdam for his annual ritual of whoring and snorting as much coke as he can get up his nose. Back home in Edinburgh, he spends his time having callous sex with any willing or half-willing "lassie," when not obsessing over the wife and child who have (understandably) deserted him and scratching his eczema-inflamed genitalia and buttocks until he induces bleeding. He also has a parasite that, while eating away at the gut of its repellent host, is our key to understanding Robertson and his psychosis. This is a tapeworm that talks; it relates the history of Robertson's horrific childhood and its effects, without which we'd be clueless as to what makes him behave as horribly as he does.

My problem with Filth is its lopsidedness. More than 300 pages are given over to Robertson's repetitive rant, which is, I admit, often viciously funny. But the insights into his character that explain all of this are dispensed with in less than 50. In a rush, one implausible episode piggybacks on another. It's all so crudely recounted and preposterous -- with tales of mistaken identities and people buried alive or struck by lightning -- that it seems as if Welsh is spontaneously plotting as he's writing. But if you have an appreciation for gallows humor and unrepentant nihilism, as I do, you'll probably find Filth a fun read. And the ending, in which the parasite gets the last gasping word, might have made Beckett smile. --Salon Sept. 4, 1998

Courtney Weaver
Filth is not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach...I found it....reminiscent of Brett Easton Ellis on a bad holiday in Scotland...some readers...put a high value on shock content. Still others will be titillated... -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The third and most willfully irreverent novel yet from Scotland's answer to William Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., and, arguably, Howard Stern. Here's a long howl of hatred and misogyny uttered at full foul-mouthed throttle by Bruce Robertson, an Edinburgh police detective whose investigation of a presumably racially motivated murder only intermittently distracts him from routine pursuits of extramarital sex, illegal drugs, and officially sanctioned mayhem. Though he's nominally a member of the establishment, Bruce has all the qualities one hopes for in an Irvine Welsh character: he's loud, boorish, xenophobic, racist, sexist, alcoholic, stridently profane, and tormented by flaming eczema (afflicting his not-so-private parts). Oh, and there's a tapeworm, which occasionally takes over the narrative when Bruce himself isn't speaking from his gut, as does also estranged wife Carole, a basically normal human who hopes for a reconciliation but doesn't neglect to take a lover in the meantime. This latter fact is skillfully made crucial to the rather busy plot, which is nicely varied by Bruce's embattled relationships with disapproving superiors, Racial Awareness sensitivity training, and the willing wives of his fellow officers.The relentlessly confrontational book comes to raucous life in its more abusive and violent scenes (Bruce's sexual exploitation of a teenaged hooker; a Rabelaisian 'holiday' in Amsterdam; a bit of bestiality, involving Bruce's favorite prostitute and a collie named Angus, that goes hilariously awry).But it founders when Welsh gives his loutish antihero unconvincing moments of reflection ('I feel entrapped by my lust, but when I actually get round to doing it, it justseems so pointless and tedious'), and especially when, in the overcrowded closing pages, the sources of Bruce's pathology are located in his memories of a grotesque father and of a first love who was killed by lightning. Some marvelous writing, but little of substance that Welsh hasn't already done better, notably in Trainspotting (1996) and the superb Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996). One wonders if he has written himself out.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

The trouble with people like him is that they think that they can brush off people like me. Like I was nothing. They don't understand the type of world we're living in now; all those menaced souls clamouring for attention and recognition. He was a very arrogant young man, so full of himself.

No longer. Now he's groaning, blood spilling thickly from the wounds in his head and his yellow, unfocused eyes are gandering around, desperately trying to find clarity, some meaning in the bleakness, the darkness around him. It must be lonely.

He's trying to speak now. What is it that he is trying to say to me?

Help. Police. Hospital.

Or was it help please hospital? It doesn't really matter, that little point of detail because his life is ebbing away: human existence distilled to begging for the emergency services.

You pushed me away mister. You rejected me. You tricked me and spoiled things between me and my true love. I've seen you before. Long ago, just lying there as you are now. Black, broken, dying. I was glad then and I'm glad now.

I reach into my bag and I pull out my claw hammer.

Part of me is elsewhere as I'm bringing it down on his head. He can't resist my blows. They'd done him in good, the others.

After two fruitless strikes I feel a surge of euphoria on my third as his head bursts open. His blood fairly skooshes out, covering his face like an oily waterfall and driving me into a frenzy; I'm smashing at his head and his skull is cracking and opening and I'm digging the claw hammer into the matter of his brain and it smells but that's only him pissing and shitting and the fumes are sticking fast in the stillwinter air and I wrench the hammer out, and stagger backwards to watch his twitching death throes, seeing him coming from terror to that graceless state of someone who knows that he is definitely falling and I feel myself losing my balance in those awkward shoes and I correct myself, turning and moving down the old stairway into the street.

Out on the pavement it's very cold and totally deserted. I look at a tin-foil carton with a discarded takeaway left in it. Someone has pished in its remains and rice floats on a small freezing reservoir of urine. I move away. The cold has slipped into my bones with every step down the road jarring, making me feel like I'm going to splinter. Flesh and bone seem separate, as if a void exists between them. There's no fear or regret but no elation or sense of triumph either. It's just a job that had to be done.

The Games

Woke up this morning. Woke up into the job.

The job. It holds you. It's all around you; a constant, enclosing absorbing gel. And when you're in the job, you look out at life through that distorted lens. Sometimes, aye, you get your wee zones of relative freedom to retreat into, those light, delicate spaces where new things, different, better things can be perceived of as possibles.

Then it stops. Suddenly you see that those zones aren't there any more. They were getting smaller, you knew that. You knew that some day you'd have to get round to doing something about it. When did this happen? The realisation came some time after. It doesn't really matter how long it took: two years, three, five or ten. The zones got smaller and smaller until they didn't exist, and all that's left behind is the residue. That's the games.

The games are the only way you can survive the job. Everybody has their wee vanities, their own little conceits. My one is that nobody plays the games like me, Bruce Robertson. D.S. Robertson, soon to be D.I. Robertson.

The games are always, repeat, always, being played. Most times, in any organisation, it's expedient not to acknowledge their existence. But they're always there. Like now. Now I'm sitting with a bad nut and Toal's thriving on this. I've been fucking busy and he's told me to be here, not asked, mind you, told. I got it all from Ray Lennox who was first on the scene with some uniformed spastics. Aye, I got it all from young Ray but Toal of course needs his audience. Behind the times Toalie boy, be-hind the blessed times.

He paces up and down like one of those fuckin Inspector Morse type of cunts. His briefings are the closest to action the spastic gets. Then he sits back down on his arse, petulant because people are still filing in. Respect and Toal go together like fish and chocolate ice cream, whatever the spastic deludes himself by choosing to think.

I got three sheets last night and this lighting is nipping my heid and my bowels are as greasy as a hoor's chuff at the end of a shift doon the sauna. I fart silently but move swiftly to the other side of the room. The technique is to let the fart ooze out a bit before you head off, or you just take it with you in your troosers tae the next port of call. It's like the fitba, you have to time your runs. My friend and neighbour, Tom Stronach, a professional footballer and a fanny-merchant extraordinaire, knows all about that.


Tom Stronach. Not a magic name. Not a name to conjure with.

Talking of timing, Gus Bain arrives, red-faced fae Crawford's with the sausage rolls. He's passing them around and looking like a spare prick at a hoors' convention as Toal starts his brief. Niddrie's looking on in the usual disapproving manner of the bastard. My fart-gas has wafted over to him. Result! He's waving it away ostentatiously and he thinks it's fucking Toal!

Toal stands up and clears his throat: - Our victim is a young, black male in his early thirties. He was found on Playfair Steps at around five o'clock this morning by council refuse workers. We suspect that he lives in the London area but there is at present no positive identification. D.S. Lennox was down at the morgue last night with me, he says, nodding to young Ray Lennox who wisely keeps his features set in neutrality in order no tae flag himself up as a target for the hatred and loathing which floats aroond this room like a bad fart. My bad fart, most likely.

There was a time when we could exempt each other from that hatred and loathing. Surely there was. I feel a bit light, then it's like my brain starts to birl in my head sending my thoughts and emotions cascading around. I sense them emptying into something approximating a leaky bucket which is drained before I can examine its contents. And Toal's high, sharp voice, reaching into me.

This is where he starts to play silly buggers. - It seems to have been a fruitless night for our friend. He was in the Jammy Joe's disco until three a.m. this morning and went home alone. That was when he was last reported alive. We can perhaps assume that our man felt very much an outsider, alone in a strange city which seemed to have excluded him.

Typical Toal, concerned with the state of mind of the cunt that got murdered. Fancies himself as an intellectual. This is Toal we are talking about here. It would be amusing if it wasn't so fucking tragic.
I bite into my sausage roll. The pepper and the ketchup I normally have with it are up the stairs and it tastes plain and bland without them. That spunk-bag Toal's wrecked my fuckin day already! Wir only jist in the fuckin place!

As my fart retreats via the airvent I clock Niddrie exiting from the door, improving the room's atmosphere in much the same way. Even Toal's sprightlier now. - The man was dressed in blue jeans, a red t-shirt and a black tracksuit top with orange strips on the arms. His hair was cut short. Amanda, Toal gestures to that silly wee lassie Amanda Drummond, who's doing all that she's good for, a psuedo-clerical job, dishing oot copies of the description. Drummond's had her frizzy blonde hair cut short, which makes her look even mair ay a carpet muncher. She has bulging eyes which always give you the impression that she's in shock, and she's hardly any chin; just a sour, twisted mooth which comes out of her neck. She's wearing a long, brown skirt which is too thick to see the pant line through, with a checked blouse and a fawn and brown striped cardigan. I've seen mair meat on a butcher's knife.



I think not.

- Thanks Amanda, Toal smiles, and this crawling wee sow coos back at him. She'd suck his fuckin knob right there in front of us if he asked her tae. No that it'll do her much good; she'll be away soon, some cunt'll knock her up the duff and that'll be her playin at being polis over.

- Our murder victim left the nightclub and . . . Toal continues, but Andy Clelland cuts in on a wind-up: - Boss, a wee point of order. Maybe we shouldnae stigmatise the guy by referring to him by such a pejorative term as victim?

You have to raise your glass to Clell, he always hits home. Toal looks a bit doubtful, and Amanda Drummond's nodding supportively, completely unaware that he's taking the pish.

- The cunt's fuckin well deid, disnae matter what ye call um now, Dougie Gillman says under his breath. I chuckle and Gus Bain does n aw.

- Sorry Dougie? Care to share that with us? Toal smiles sarcastically.

- Naw gaffer, s'awright. It's nothing, Gillman shrugs. Dougie Gillman has short brown hair, narrow, cold blue eyes and a big, powerful jaw you could break your fingers on. He's about my height, five-eight, but is as wide as he is tall.

- Perhaps, craving your indulgence gentlemen, Toal says coldly, now trying to stamp his authority on the proceedings in Niddrie's absence, - we might continue. The deceased was probably making his way towards hotel accommodation on the South Side of the city. We've a team out checking the hotels for someone of his description. Assuming that was the case, the route he took to get there was interesting. We all know that there are certain places you shouldn't go to in a strange city after dark, Toal raises his thick, straggly eyebrows, slipping back into his showboating mode, - places like dark alleys where the ambience of such surroundings might incite even a reasonable person to perpetrate an evil deed.

The self-indulgent cunt's on one of his trips the day alright. Thinks that we're a bunch of fuckin bairns tae be spooked by his bedtime stories.

- Now that twisting staircase which is the city's umbilical cord connecting the Old Town with the New Town is one such place, he says, pausing dramatically.

Umbilical fuckin cord! It's a fuckin stair you fucking clown. S-T-A-I-R. I know that spazwit's crack; the bastard wants tae be a fuckin scriptwriter. I ken this because I got a sketch of what he had up on his VDU when he went to answer a private phone-call in the quiet anteroom from his office. He was trying to write a telly or film script or some shite. In police time as well. Lazy cunt's got nowt better tae dae, and on his salary too. That shit-bag leads a charmed life, I kid you not.

As he began his ascent, perhaps the victim pondered this. Did he know the city? Possibly, otherwise he might not have known of this short-cut. But surely, had he known about it, alone, and at that time in the morning, he'd have thought twice about climbing it. That staircase, too dangerous and urine-soaked for even the most desperate jakeys to crash in. The guy must have felt fear. He didn't act on that fear. Is fear not the way of telling you that something's wrong? Like pain? Toal speculates. People shuffle around nervously, and even Amanda Drummond has the good grace to look embarrassed at this. Andy Clelland stifles a laugh by coughing. Dougie Gillman's eyes are on Karen Fulton's erse, which is not a bad place for them to be.

Toal's so intae his ain shit though, he's totally oblivious tae all this. The ring is his and he doesnae want tae spoil his own fun by going for a knockout punch so early. - Maybe he felt it was all paranoia, distortion of emotion. Then the voices. He must have heard them coming, at that time of night you'd be bound to hear people on these steps.

No, he wants us to throw in the towel. Sorry Toalie, but it's not the Bruce Robertson style. Let's joust. - Nae eye witnesses? I ask, glad that I omitted that term 'gaffer'. That fucker's my boss in name only.

- Not as yet Bruce, he says curtly, upset at having his flow interrupted. That's Toal; have a wank in our faces, never mind those wee practical details that might actually help get whoever topped this coon banged up.

- Then they were on him and they kicked him down to a recess in the stairs where a savage beating took place. One of the assailants, only one, went further than the others and struck the man with an implement. Forensic already say that the injuries left are consistent with those that would be made by a hammer wielded at force. This assailant did this repeatedly, caving in the man's skull and driving the implement into his brain. As I said earlier, our friends in the council cleansing department found the body.

Your friends in the council cleansing department Toal. I have no scaffy friends.

- Left him lying like rubbish, Gus shakes his head.

- Maybe he wis rubbish.

Fuck. That slipped out. I shouldnae have said that. They're all looking at me. - Tae the scumbag that did him, like, I add.

- Are you postulating that it was a racially motivated attack Bruce? Drummond quizzes, her mouth twisting downwards in a slow, agonised movement. Karen Fulton looks encouragingly at her, then at me.

- Eh, aye, I say. That starts them chattering, too loudly for them to notice that my teeth are doing the same. This fuckin hangover. This fuckin place. This fuckin job.

Meet the Author

Irvine Welsh is the best-selling author of Trainspotting, Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, Filth, Marabou Stork Nightmares, The Acid House, Skagboys, and, most recently, A Decent Ride. He currently lives in Chicago. T2 Trainspotting was first published as Porno.

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Filth 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
SavageBS More than 1 year ago
Wow, the book definitely lives up to it's title "Filth"! Detective Sgt. Bruce Robertson is one despicable bastard! He takes drugs, abuses his police power, is addicted to pornography, takes bribes, masterbates compulsively, is a sex fiend, has a nasty bit of eczema below the belt & has a tapeworm in his gut! D.S. Robertson is a filthy human being, he back stabs his friends & co-workers, tells extremely harmful and deceitful lies to women to sleep with them and he stinks "literally"! Once you get used to the Scottish slang used throughout this book, it really takes off. Bruce's misadventures are a laugh and his bad attitude is relentless. The tapeworm in Bruce's gut talks occasionally throughout the book, it may sound odd, but it genius! The tapeworm tells the story of how Bruce grew to be the "Filth" that he is. The book keeps a good pace throughout, but really delivers in the last 3/4 of the story. The ending was perfect, easily one of the finest endings to any story I've read in awhile!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Slightly different from his other works, not as funny, but still vintage Welsh. A good plot, and about a different kind of loser this time. The character of Bruce is just brilliantly written and I loved the ending when you find out why he is the way he is. This man, Irvine Welsh, is just so incredible, that there needs to be classes taught on his books. Maybe there is?? Definitely recommended!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have read of mr. welsch and it makes me want to read all of his book s due to how well written this one was. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Filth, that's the name of the game. In this non-stop degridation of others story we have one of the most unique charecters I've read about. Both repulsive and compulsivly addictive this book takes you through a journey of self realization that ends quite dramatically. It was difficult at first with most of the people speaking with a scottish accent and with terms that we Americans aren't very used to but trust me you get used to it fast. Worth the time and I will tell others of this most bizarre gem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
True to it's namesake, this book is just filled with FILTH. If you aren't a very liberal person this book IS NOT for you but otherwise it is a very good book with a shocking ending. I really enjoyed reading it, many parts made me laugh out loud. The only hard part about this book was the fact that I am an American and some of the speech and dialougue used was a little bit hard to understand.
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