Irvine Welsh – A Decent Ride (3 stars)

Glue’s ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson returns as a Lothario of epic proportions

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Irvine Welsh – A Decent Ride

In 'Juice' Terry Lawson, one of Irvine Welsh's most popular creations since his first appearance in Glue back in 2001, the author has crafted a comic book antihero, a character so absurd that all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Enjoyable it is too. Terry’s exploits as a cab driver in Edinburgh see him embroiled in misadventures with an American reality TV star, along with countless, easily seduced women. These include sex worker Jinty, who disappears during a storm on the pivotal night in the novel. While there is very little damage caused by ‘Hurricane Bawbag’, symbolically it is hugely destructive and acts as a catalyst for Terry’s transformation.

While Terry himself – a corkscrew–permed, leisuresuit wearing Lothario of epic proportions – is a throwback to something from the pages of Viz, a new resident in Welsh's Edinburgh is Jinty’s boyfriend Wee Jonty Mackay. He's more intriguing than Lawson; more complex in his emotions and he provides some of the novel’s more memorable – and degrading – scenes.

The issue with A Decent Ride is that there are too many diverse plot strands, and several narrative voices pulling the reader in multiple directions. It’s as though Welsh has tried to squeeze in every good idea he had for the novel. Yet, as Terry’s existential crisis deepens and his character emerges from its sex–mad cocoon, real pathos develops.

This may be set in a caricatured world, but its subtext – from the treatment of sex workers to the absurdity of celebrity culture and the mortal fears that arise in middle age – has real depth. It may not hit the heights of previous novels, but A Decent Ride is a welcome addition to Welsh’s Edinburgh canon.

Out on Thu 16 Apr, published by Jonathan Cape.

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