Marina Fabbri interviews the author of The Long Knives, who shot to worldwide fame in 1993 for his novel Trainspotting. And, as happened with his 2008 novel Crime, the investigations of detective Ray Lennox will once again become a television miniseries

«I wanted to look at a character who’d been through some kind of post-traumatic stress event, which so many people are in real life. So many people are victims of abuse or are victims of anxiety or stress disorders. I wanted to look at how they navigate life and how they are drawn to all these scenarios of revenge, which are kind of self-defeating, in a way, but sometimes it feels like it’s the only place for something to go».

Drawn out by Marina Fabbri’s questions, Irvine Welsh duly talked about his new novel, The Long Knives, published in Italy by Guanda. It’s his second novel, after Crime, to feature detective Ray Lennox (with a third devoted to this protagonist on its way next year, Resolution), although Lennox actually first appeared in the 1998 novel Filth, as assistant to another memorable antihero, depraved and traumatized: Bruce Robertson.

«I thought the character was quite an interesting guy, a character of secrets», says Welsh of Lennox, when he was just a secondary character. «So I wanted to expand his role in a novel that I wrote called Crime. We filmed that and broadcast that last year, a six-part series. We’re actually filming the sequel of that, The Long Knives, so we’ve got another six-parter, based on that. So, I’ve really got a head of steam with this character now and I’m really enjoying working with this particular character and finding out all the nuances. I’m not a plot guy: I work very much on character, and I let the characters kind of tell me the story. I’ve got always an idea of a vague theme, but the character fills in all the details, you know, with their obsessions and their interactions with the other characters».

And while on the subject of small screen adaptations, Welsh had this to say about the actors who have played some of his characters: «In Filth, [Ed. Note: directed by Jon S. Baird in 2013] I think that for me, James McAvoy’s performance as Bruce Robertson is one of the best performances I’ve seen from an actor. The way he handles the emotional transitions of the guy’s breakdown is absolutely fabulous. It’s just incredible. Now, I didn’t think that anybody could match that, until I saw Dougray Scott’s performance as Ray Lennox in Crime, because he’s really, really gone to town on it. Dougray and I are friends. We’ve been planning this show for about ten years. So, he’s had ten years of investing into the character, and it really, really shows. I mean, he just becomes that character. All the nuances of that character and what he goes through, he just rides with them all the way».