Marabou Stork Nightmares

Roy Strang is engaged in a strange quest in a surrealist South Africa. His mission is to eradicate an evil predator-scavenger bird, the marabou stork, before it drives away the peace-loving flamingo from the picturesque Lake Torto.

But behind this world lies another: the world of Roy's bizarre family, the Scottish housing scheme in which he grew up, his mundane job, a disastrous emigration to Africa, and his youthful life of brutality with a gang of soccer casuals. As one world crashes into the other, this potentially charming story of ornithological goodwill mutates into a filthy tale of violence, abuse and redemption.


I remember the drabness of Heathrow, followed by the depressing flight north of the border. We were all fucked anyway after the long journey from Johannesburg, but they had cancelled a couple of planes because of ice on the runaway. London was freezing; Scotland would be even worse. It shows how dense and in a world of my own I had been eighteen months before, because I had been almost as excited that we were stopping off in London as I was that we were on our way to Johannesburg. I thought of London as somewhere just as distant and exotic; I had been suprised on the outward journey that we arrived there so quickly. Returning though, I saw London for what it was: the grizzled fag-end of the British Islands.


“A superbly talented writer...anarchic and entirely invigorating”

- Scotsman

“A wonderful success: a funny, cleverly composed, genuinely exciting and assured leap of a novel”

- New Statesman

“Extremely funny... As clever as Alasdair Gray, as elegant as Jeff Torrington, as passionate as James Kelman, Welsh has got it all”

- Tibor Fischer

Irvine's Comment

"The tanned, blonde girl approached me in the bookstore on Sunset Boulevard in LA. 'I loved the Trainspotting film' she gushed, waving a copy of Marabou Stork Nightmares in my face. 'I can't wait to read this. It's great to see a male writer tackling some of the issues pertinent to young professional women in America today.' I started to respond, rather blandly, about Edinburgh's Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women Campaign. She kept going on about how for a lot of wealthy, career-oriented Californian women, the idea of getting pregnant was their deepest fear. I realised that we were talking at cross purposes and explained what the book was about. 'Oh...' she gasped, looking at the title again, '...I guess I thought it was called MALIBU Stork Nightmares and kind of assumed...'

Out of all my books, this is the one that the people who get it seem to really like best. In some ways, I'm probably more pleased with it than any other I've written. After the success of Trainspotting and The Acid House, I wrote a crap, pretentious novel because i'd become a big-headed arsehole who thought I could photocopy my gas bill two hundred times and it would sell millions to great acclaim. My publisher, Robin Robertson, sat me down on told me that I was writing a pile of shite - my words, not his, he was more diplomatic. He told me to 'write about what you care about' and I sat down and wrote Marabou in five weeks. It's another one of these books that was very hard going, intensive and put a strain on a lot of my relationships - a bit like being on coke for every second of the day for over a month.
Marabou Stork Nightmares