Edinburgh Book Festival Review – Louise Welsh

August 18, 2007

Louise WelshIf you want to read an author who has the unique ability to cross literary genres in a single bound, in a single book even, and still manage to keep fans of each kind happy with gripping plot and prose, then look no further than Louise Welsh.

Not since Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, has an author caused as much debate within literary circles as to the true nature of her work; crime, literary, gay, or gothic, as this talented author from Glasgow has.

Welsh exploded onto the literary circuit with her debut novel, The Cutting Room, when it was published in 2002. She was catapulted to fame with several awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Creasey Dagger for the best first crime novel, and joint winner of the Saltire Society First Book of The Year Award.

Two years later her second book, a novella called, Tamburlaine Must Die, was released, and by this time she had concreted her name as a must-read writer throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Three years on from that, and she is the guest of honour at an Edinburgh Book Festival event this evening, to celebrate her achievements to date.

When asked where the inspiration for her third novel came, set in Glasgow, London, and Berlin, Welsh explained, “The Observer newspaper asked me to write some travel articles and offered me the chance to travel anywhere I wanted (within reason). So after much deliberation I chose Berlin, because it was in keeping with an idea I’d been toying with for a novel.

“At the time,” she continues, “it was the 20th anniversary of the musical, Cabaret, and that whole seedy, smoky Berlin club scene I researched when I was there – well it proved too hard to resist.”

And thus was spawned the idea for Welsh’s third novel, The Bullet Trick, which would reached the shelves in 2006, further proving she had it in her to be a consistently superb writer.

The main protagonist in the book is a conjurer named William Wilson. Welsh appreciated the connection made by the chair, Alan Morrison, that her choice of name might be in some way be in tribute to the character penned by Edgar Allan Poe.

“I was trying to achieve an unconscious build up of the same Gothic elements that Poe had,” she says. “I like that gothic influence, and the conjuror himself is really a metaphor for the act of reading a book; the magic, the intrigue, the surprise and illusion created by the author – if it’s done right.”

Welsh gave the audience in the Scottish Power Studio Tent a rare treat, when she chose to read not from her last book, but from an as yet unpublished work that is still in progress. The reading of the first chapter lasted twenty minutes – perhaps a touch too long for some of the elders in the audience – but her ability to construct striking and memorable visual images in ones mind as she read, was undeniable.

The reading also highlighted yet another dramatic change in her approach, since this new work has been written in third person, whereas her previous books have always been in first. “That may all change,” she warns with a waggle of her finger. “It could be I go back and re-write the whole damn lot.”

Welsh admitted to finding plotting the hardest thing when writing a novel, but listening to her read, one knew immediately that the flow of her beautiful and engaging prose comes easiest to her. It’s as though she squeezes her fiction out slowly with great thought and care, which can only be a bonus to her readers.

The success of her first novel paved the way for Welsh, along the golden path for any writer, in that she can choose her genres and subject matter at will, and hand the reader a top quality novel as a result.

“My publisher, Canongate, could have insisted I continued into a serial after The Cutting Room, but they didn’t. I think that’s one of the advantages of me being with a smaller publisher, in that they let me go with what I wanted to write about. I’m very lucky in that respect.”

Related Links

~ Colin Galbraith ~



  1. […] Click here to read my EBF Review of Louise Welsh (Aug 17th) […]

  2. […] Louise Welsh (Aug 17th) […]

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