Crime: Irvine Welsh lifts the lid on his 'incendiary' new Edinburgh-set police thriller
It is a project that has been from Edinburgh to Hollywood and back again before seeing the light of day.
But there is no sense of disappointment from Irvine Welsh over the latest adaptation of one of his novels.
The Edinburgh-born writer is about to launch his first ever TV series, Crime, after spending years working with actor Dougray Scott to try to bring rogue detective Ray Lennox to the screen.
Welsh insists the “mad psychological thriller” is not only a world away from Scottish crime favourites like Taggart and Rebus, but is unlike anything seen on British TV before.
Ahead of its launch on streaming service BritBox from Thursday, he insists Crime is so “hard-core” it would never have been made by the BBC or ITV.
One thing seems certain – it is set to depict the forces of law and order in Scotland on screen like never before.
Scott gives a performance hailed as “incendiary” by Welsh as Detective Inspector Lennox battles with addiction problems while deploying unorthodox tactics investigating the disappearance of a schoolgirl and its link to a serial killer.
The six-part series, which Welsh has created with long-time screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh, is partly based on Welsh’s 2008 novel, which sees Lennox head to Florida with partner Trudi to try to recover from a breakdown he suffered in Edinburgh.
Welsh and Scott, both die-hard fans of Hibernian Football Club, started discussing a possible adaptation after meeting at a benefit for club legend Franck Sauzee, when the actor told the writer he felt Lennox was a character he was “born to play”.
Welsh said: "Lennox is a very troubled guy. He’s not really a cop, as such. His whole thing is about fighting against his own demons by trying to solve these cases. He thinks by doing that he can fix himself – it’s like an itch he is trying to scratch.
"We tried to find ways of making it happen over the years and Dougray was like a dog with a bone – he wouldn’t let it go.
"We went round a lot of producers and at first we thought of doing it as a movie in Florida. We had a lot of meetings in Hollywood and there was a lot of interest, but it kind of floundered on the idea of having a non-American as a hero. It was a difficult sell.”
Key to getting Crime off the ground was British producer Tony Wood, whose previous shows included Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and The Only Way Is Essex.
The focus eventually shifted from a Florida-set film to a series focusing on an under-pressure police department in Edinburgh to fully explore the “backstory” on the demons plaguing the Hearts-supporting detective, who is haunted by flashbacks from his past.
Welsh said: "When you’ve got a character and a storyline it gives you a tremendous advantage.
"Sometimes when you start writing you have to find the character of the story, but when you have them already you have a bit of leeway to do arcs with them to make them more interesting.”
Filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Crime’s star-studded cast includes Ken Stott, who replaced John Hannah in STV’s adaptation of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, former Coronation Street, Holby City and White Lines star Angela Griffin, and Joanna Vanderham, who plays Detective Sergeant Amanda Drummond, Lennonx’s police partner.
Other key characters are played by Jamie Sives, Michael Abubakar, Stuart Martin, Rueben Joseph, Laura Fraser, Allison McKenzie, Sorcha Groundsell and Forbes Masson.
Welsh said: “My whole thing was to make it very big, dramatic and very character driven.
“We didn’t want it to be from the sort of style of Scottish cop programmes like Taggart or Rebus, or The Bill or Line of Duty. They’ve a lot going for them, but we wanted this to be completely different.
"We were thinking more along the lines of American shows like True Detective, which are very much about the character.
“We wanted the cops to be more f***** up than the people they’re after. The idea was that you have these dangerous people out there and you need other dangerous people to catch them. It’s not about good people trying to lock up bad people.
"The book is told mainly from Lennox’s point of view. But television can’t afford to be like that. All the characters have to pull their weight.
"We’ve got a rich tapestry of them and they all have big, dramatic moments. Our ambition was to write every character up. I want people to think there could be a spin-off season with any of them.”
Lennox is described by Scott as a “very rough, fragile avenging angel who is determined to give a voice to those people who don't have a voice in society, and to protect the vulnerable.”
Welsh says: “The character calls for a big, sustained performance, with a lot of fragility and humanity, as well as rage and anger.
"It asks a lot of an actor, but Dougray’s had this thing in his sights for years. He’s inhabited this character and has really nailed it with a performance which is absolutely amazing and incendiary.”
With depictions of racism and misogyny in the police, suggestions of corruption between senior officers and politicians, the unfolding of Lennox’s addiction battles and the debate over Scottish independence making a rare appearance in a major drama series, Crime seems almost certain to court controversy.
Recalling the response to his novel Filth, which focused on a corrupt and bigoted Edinburgh detective, Welsh said: “When I wrote Filth I got condemned by police forces and the people responsible for their PR, but all these beat cops were coming up to me asking me to sign their notebooks, saying that it resonated with them.
"Dougray worked with a brilliant police adviser, who says the show is more real than anything else he’s seen.
“If you’re doing villains as real people then you have to have cops as real people as well.
"We’re all flawed to a greater or lesser extent. If you’re in a high-pressure business like police work or criminality all these flaws will be amplified.
"I think it will strike a chord with people at the moment. You can see that the world that we are in is dissolving in a lot of ways. It’s breaking up and changing rapidly. I think the existential chaos will chime with a lot of people.
"Other people may find it too much if they just want some kind of escapism or entertainment and not this dark, confrontational piece.”