Both a prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, and an alternative version of it, Skagboys is Irvine Welsh's greatest work.
Irvine Welsh is the author of eight previous novels and four books of shorter fiction. He currently lives in Chicago.
Built upon 100,000 words set aside in the process of writing Trainspotting comes this prequel set in gritty early '80s Leith, Edinburgh. The familiar voices of Mark "Rent Boy" Renton, Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, Danny "Spud" Murphy, Frank Begbie, Matty Connell, and Alison Lozinska crowd the pages of this sprawling narrative. Mark, who goes off to Aberdeen University, plans a rail tour of Europe with the girl of his dreams, Fiona Conyers, and seems poised to leave behind old mates like Ali, who secures a cushy job assisting efforts to eradicate the Dutch elm disease ravaging Edinburgh's trees. On her first day at work Ali accompanies her boss to a pub and meets his brother, who is secretly smuggling industrial grade heroin out of the local pharmaceutical plant, inadvertently unleashing another ravaging early '80s disease, AIDS (Welsh details both in newsy "Notes on an Epidemic" chapters). Meanwhile Matty, Simon, Frank, and Danny idly wander the streets in pursuit of pints, skag, lassies, brawls, and kindness. But after Mark deceives Fiona about his own drug use, and his disabled little brother dies, he joins the downward heroin-fueled trajectory of his disaffected peers. Parental intervention, arrests, and even rehab can't change the course of their addiction as they become increasingly cynical and uninterested in anything other than the next fix. Their combined experiences twist together the fading London punk scene, the declining power of the proletariat, hooliganism, neo-Nazism, and the AIDS epidemic that characterized Thatcherite Britain. Careening between boisterous, belligerent, hilarious, and maudlin emotional registers like a drunk at a party, this novel has a dizzy energy in spite of its aimless plot and general corpulence. As with much of Welsh's oeuvre, it's not for the uninitiated-the prose is dense with Edinburgh dialect, disturbing sexual encounters, explosive violence, and much sorrow. Agent: Jenny Chapman, Jonathan Cape. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Masterful... its banter, outrage and razor wit sing off the page"
* Independent *
"Brilliant and even more thrilling than its predecessor" * Mail on Sunday *
"Quite simply a masterpiece" * Scotsman *
"A brilliantly funny, scary, sweeping novel with all the energy of Welsh's debut" * Independent on Sunday *
"Funny...visceral and true... Welsh's finest work to date" * The Times *
Mark Renton should have been the first of his generation to make it out of government housing and do something with his life. Instead, a dalliance with heroin begins a long downward spiral. This prequel to Welsh's seminal 1993 Trainspotting shows how those characters first got into their dire straits. The story hops among multiple narrators and is filled with Scottish slang and phonetic spellings, which is at first disconcerting. Soon, however, the text develops a poetic rhythm similar to Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. The author further establishes Edinburgh's bleak mood during the early years of Thatcherism by breaking up the narrative with straightforward factual chapters that describe how the Conservative government's policy of economic austerity and erosion of workers' rights engendered a desperation among the lower classes that made dropping out and becoming a heroin addict seem like an understandable lifestyle choice. VERDICT Recommended for fans of gritty European fiction and drug lit. [See Prepub Alert, 3/19/12.]-Peter M. Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA, (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.