John Hood
Author Irvine Welsh reads from his latest novel Crime to an audience gathered at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

Last Night: Irvine Welsh at Books & Books

While it might be every day that one or more of the four Books & Books stores has some kinda reading, it certainly isn’t every day that the good folks permit a bad cat like me to introduce whoever’s turning the pages -- and for damn good reason, too. I mean, given the podium, who knows what I might do? Not them, of course (how could they?). And not me either. Especially when you consider I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

Okay, so I do have some idea, sorta, but that doesn’t make it bright. Unless by bright you mean dim, dark and dangerous. See, last night I set the stage for a reading by a deeply enlightening Scot named Irvine Welsh using a combination of flashbacks, scare tactics and murder ballads that had never seen the sun.

All just to be on the scene as my pal personally unveiled his latest novel, Crime, a book so beautifully bleak it makes shadows look like the great wide open.

And if the throngs who hit the Gables branch of our favorite bookshop for Irvine’s appearance were any indication, it’s also a work that’ll appeal to more than just the many few Miamians who generally prefer that their literature come from the shady side of our streets. Sure there were the usual suspects in attendance – students, hipsters, loners, louts -- but there also seemed to be an abundance of people not normally associated with the transgressive set. Oh, not simple people, mind you (no simpleton could ever get Welsh), and not plain, either (there’s nothing plain about Crime), but what you might call daytime people.

Best though was the fact that everybody in the crowd, whether they lived by day or by night, came to be engaged. Welsh was greeted by resounding applause (partly sparked by my introduction, I’m sure), given due respect while he read a rather lengthy chapter, and then hit with a litany of questions as insightful as they were informed. I tell ya, it’s always heartening to see the smart side of South Florida come out and show that we’re more than just a bunch of party animals.

Not that we don’t dig a good party. After Irvine signed what must’ve been hundreds of copies of Crime, as well as dozens upon dozens of his newly jacketed classic, Trainspotting, everybody adjourned en masse to White Room, where the man and his fans and his friends kicked back a whole case of Right Gin, and kicked off a wild night of revelry. And if seeing our smart side left me heartened, seeing it buffered by a slew of our more industrious club kids got us all positively giddy. The liquor helped, naturally, as did the rarefied air of a cloudless downtown. Mostly though it was the notion that we the people of this dis-united city could come together in accordance with something as bold and as brave and as forceful as literature – and get wiped out doing so.

Drink that, naysayers!

-- John Hood

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