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Filth [Hardcover]

Irvine Welsh
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 11 1998
With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially -- kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves.

But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition -- in the form of truth and ethical conscience -- from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus. In Bruce Robertson, Welsh has created one of the most corrupt, misanthropic characters in contemporary fiction and has written a dark, disturbing and very funny novel about sleaze, power, and the abuse of everything. At last, a novel that lives up to its name.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

Talk about truth in advertising! Irvine Welsh's novel about an evil Edinburgh cop is filthy enough to please the most crud-craving fans of his blockbuster debut, Trainspotting. Like Trainspotting, Filth matches its nastiness with a maniacal, deeply peeved sense of humor. Though one does feel the need to escape this train wreck of a narrative from time to time for a shower and some chamomile tea, just as often Welsh provokes a belly laugh with an extraordinarily perverse and cruelly funny set piece. Nicely violent turns of phrase litter the ghastly landscape of his tale.

Our hero, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, is a cross between Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant and John Belushi in Animal House. His task is to nab a killer who has brained the son of the Ghanaian ambassador, but bigoted Bruce is more urgently concerned with coercing sex from teenage Ecstasy dealers, planning vice tours of Amsterdam, and mulling over his lurid love life. He's also got a tapeworm, whose monologue is printed right down the middle of many pages. Here's one of this unusually articulate parasite's realizations: "My problem is that I seem to have quite a simple biological structure with no mechanism for the transference of all my grand and noble thoughts into fine deeds."

Welsh's real strength is comic tough talk and inventive slang. The murder mystery helps organize his tendency to sprawl, but the engine of his art is wry, harsh dialogue. At one point, his books hogged the entire top half of Scotland's Top Ten Bestsellers list--and half the buyers of Trainspotting had never bought a book before. The reason is not that Welsh is the best novelist who ever got short-listed for the Booker Prize. It is that he is that rarest of phenomena, an original voice. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers 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. Editor, Gerald Howard; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Do Some Research Oct. 16 2001
By mike
Format:Paperback
As with most of Welsh's writing, Filth bucks and ripples with the heavy brogue of Scottish vernacular, with it's roots in Gaelic, Norse and Middle English, along with the occasional term borrowed from Jamaican immigrants and African American music.
This seems to annoy and confuse many readers still virgins to Edinburgh inner city slang. However, hope is in site. Look up "snogging" or "the craft", or generalize with "Scottish slang" on most internet search engines, and you'll be moving along nicely in no time. In step with Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Joyce and Salinger, Welsh shapes, moves, and often rips violently, the English language. Sure, a little research is needed, but if you're hungry for a reading experience the intellectual equivalent of a drunken fist fight at 2:30am in a strip club parking lot, Welsh is your man, and Filth may very well be your novel. If you're content with linguistic tea biscuits and verbal aromatherapy, I hear Oprah's got some lovely book ideas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gut-wrentching tale of a man in uniform....... July 26 2001
By Mark
Format:Paperback
This book certainly gives me a new perspective of police officers in my society. Welsh threw in any mordant situations in this one. Bruce Robertson, a police who has power in his grasps but not for liberal or righteous reasons. He was a manipulative man, loads of debauchery, loathesome friends, incredibly bad hygene and to top it off, he has a bit of a rash. Practically, all he ever wanted was his vacation and a promotion but on the way he found himself in a bind, sordid crimes, racial murder, his wife being in Australia with his daughter, it was all too much for him. He was in numerous liaisons with women that are fairly close to him. His real father detested him and also by most of his colleages. The ending was quite a surprise who ever was caught in the story but he had it coming. It was somewhat a twisted fate. Bad karma to think about it. He also had a narrative living being inside of him that told his life story(mainly at the end). Welsh was very vivid through-out the book. Very creative and certainly a winner with this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars roll in the filth... May 18 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Well, it's actually been a little over a year since I read this deliciously twisted piece of literature- and I have yet to get over it. It might be easy for someone to dismiss Welsh as simply going for the gross-out/shock factor with his stories (as they are all written in a similar vein), but, in my humble opinion, it is just as much an art form to plumb the depths of human debauchery and wallow in its excesses as it is to tell tales of a more user-friendly nature. "Filth" is the proof. Just as Richard Pryor gave artistic credibility and validity to the use of profanity- say that ten times fast- Irvine Welsh demonstrates that life's stories involve raw, disgusting, infected matter as well as pleasant. You don't see many characters in books, movies, etc. that have a tapeworm (yikes!) or severe cases of rash... in the nether regions-- does that mean they don't exist? Tales of murderers, rapists, junkies exist in literature- these are not novel concepts- but, Welsh pushes the extremes to such a degree that even as your cringing it is not without a hint of delight. His brilliant style of writing, especially concerning the vivid formation of eccentric characters, is completely captivating. You will actually find yourself cheering him on to push it further, take it deeper, scrape up more filth (no pun intended) to heap on top. The story? Not much should be said; to give away too much would be unforgiveable. Our hero, Bruce Robertson, despite his many physical ailments- one of them helps narrate the story- is still anxiously anticipating an upcoming vacation to the Netherlands for a romp through the fields of sex and drugs. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bad cop, no donut May 6 2001
Format:Paperback
The beginning of the twenty-first century is supposed to be a grand time filled with optimism; the things of the past can be swept away, erased or pushed underneath the carpet to make the house look cleaner. However the brave new world of our present will always have its deep scratches that are hard to wipe off with soap. So hard to get rid of sometimes that the scratch will only spread, lining every corner of the house until there's nothing left to scratch, and will turn in on itself to go only deeper till it becomes exhausted, decimated.
Welsh's "Filth" is a novel that proves this world is hardly perfect. In his creation, Welsh brings us the misanthrop Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of the Royal Lothian Constabulary (the police force that covers central eastern Scotland, including Edinburgh). On the onset, Robertson seems like a policeman who's probably been on the force a few years, seen enough things to make him a tad-bit pessimistic about the world, but ultimately knows what he's doing. But very quickly does the reader find out that Robertson is anything but the model policeman. Robertson, who narrates the whole story using his Scottish dialect, sprinkled here and there with slang he picked up from London, is the kind of policeman that would make ACLU laywers go gonzo with lawsuits. Robertson deliberately makes his police hours--in this case, the murder of the son of a African diplomat--his own hours, filled with long overtimes consisting of trying to do things with as many prostitutes and stray women as possible, while his own wife has left him.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Welsh's Best!
I would definitely recommend this to a fan of Irvine Welsh, it is magnificently gritty and hilarious. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Thomas de Gruchy
1.0 out of 5 stars Love Irvine Welsh.... Hated Filth
Trainspotting is possibly my favorite novel of all time. Porno, although not as good was still an excellent read... but Filth was horrible. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2009 by Matthew Gervais
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK EVER
No contest. Pure filth. I felt like I had been kicked in the kidneys by the end of it. Never had such an intense physical reaction to a book before. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2006 by Mel
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Welsh's very best, in my opinion.
This novel takes us through the miserable life of a very dislikable lead character. Read more
Published on April 20 2006 by RB
4.0 out of 5 stars Filthy
The entire first chapter is about a fart, I think. I had to try to read it over and over so many times because of the incomprehensible scottish slang. Read more
Published on June 20 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars a new direction for an under rated writer
While this book at times is basically shock value.the over all ambition of the novel is to profile a particular type of person who has lost all morality as a result of the life... Read more
Published on May 15 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its name
I recently read Burroughs' Cities of the Red Night, so this is no longer the most disgusting thing I've read. But it still is the most satisfyingly filthy book I can think of. Read more
Published on March 27 2002 by Gordon Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Sick, twisted, deeply disturbing and ultimately brilliant.
Welsh, in the grand tradition of authors such as William S. Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, uses his art like a scalpel to lay open for our examination some of the more unpleasant and... Read more
Published on March 22 2002 by Elvis Christ
5.0 out of 5 stars his best by far
i read this book two years ago and haven't read it sice <i don't read books twice> but i intend to shortly. this book is disgustingly funny. Read more
Published on March 4 2002 by gasmark9@hotmail.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the squeamish....But a GREAT book!
I still can't get this book out of my mind, so much so that I am writing this review a year after reading it when admittedly I have better things to be doing at 1am. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2001 by J. Gilliam
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