Thursday, May 10, 2012

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh - Book Review

Kurt Vonnegut said that you should always start a story as late as possible, something which Irvine Welsh did with his first book Trainspotting, which has meant that he could revisit the story 20 later years for this prequel. 

Skagboys follows the main characters from Trainspotting in the years building up to the original novel. It covers their descent into heroin and covers the hectic world of Edinburgh schemes in the 80s. I have read most of Irvine Welsh’s books and think this is right up there with the best of them. It encapsulates the hopelessness of addiction but does not moralise or try to offer up any lessons. 

The characters drawn from the poor areas of Leith all jump of the page and come across as fully rounded individuals, partly due to the phonetic spelling Welsh uses for their speech, which takes a bit of picking up but gives the characters a strong voice. The middle class characters tend not to be as well rounded and they feel a little bit two dimensional compared to the vividness of the “schemies”. 

I found that the book really sprang to life whenever Begby was involved. He is a violent psychopath but at the same time has a kind of insane logic to his behaviour that makes him almost likeable. I found that the scenes he was involved in really light up the book and would personally love to see a novel dedicated just to him. 

The book was reviewed on Newsnight Review just before its release and I remember one of the people on there saying that this book was not as relevant as Trainspotting because society has moved on since the time this book is set in. The story covers disaffected youths, thrown on the scrap heap by the Tory government, a familiar story to anyone who has seen a news report about youth unemployment. 

If you wanted to get an understanding of the mentality of the kids rioting in London last summer, this book would give you a fair insight. I am giving this book a five star rating, it might not quite reach the heights of Trainspotting but over the 500+ pages it consistently entertains and provides a great background to the characters depicted in Trainspotting. The morality of the people in the book is abhorrent at times but I think that is part of the joy of Irvine Welsh’s writing, he can find the humanity in the most horrible human beings. A great read.

5 out of 5

Here are some links to the paperback and the kindle versions:

1 comment:

  1. Hi James,

    I just read your websites review of Skagboys by Irvine Welsh, who is one of my favorite authors.

    My name's Sean-Paul Thomas and I'm a relatively new author from Edinburgh who is just trying to establish myself right now. I have one book published so far, while my other books are all self published.

    I've written a new book, a kind of dark, edgy, black comedy satire, set in an Edinburgh Cafe during next years referendum in Scotland. Where a lot of weird, wonderful and quirky characters come and go throughout the day, sharing stories from their crazy screwed up lives. While some just want to voice their radical opinions on Scottish Independence.

    The book was released on December 17th and I was wondering if you would have time in your busy schedule to review or spotlight the novel at some point over the next few months.

    It's a 50/50 with the Scots/English dialect. So I think it might appeal more to fans of Irvine Welsh and other Scottish authors who use Scots dialect in their writing. Right now I'm just trying to find a select target audience for my work and get it out there.

    Here is a brief Synopsis.

    'WARNING 'May contain crude Scots dialect'

    Did ye ken that it's referendum day in Scotland oan the 18th of September 2014?

    It's also new 'Pro UK Union' chef, Richard's, first day uv work at the Edinburgh auld town cafe. Where tae his great displeasure, he's already been left oan his tod tae run the evening back shift by his sexist, womanising boss Brian, wi only the pretty and fiery, Pro 'Scottish independence' student waitress Toni, tae assist.

    Throughoot the shift Toni and Richard are visited by many weird, wacky and wonderfully humorous customers. Some uv whaim are jist in fur a wee banterous blether, sharing their radical political opinions wi any bampot whae'll listen a damn, efter voting on Scotland's historical day.

    Other customers though jist dinnae give a flying hoot aboot the Independence malarkey and jist want tae huv a quiet bite while sharing their ain crazy, freaky stories from their screwed up lives.

    So fae young teens discussing the extreme lengths some boys will go tae in order tae get their sexual kicks tae Non Educated Delinquents discussing a new Scotland efter Independence. Including the rebuilding of Hadrian's wall, strict border controls and new anti English road layouts. Wi aw new Gaelic road signs tae make it even harder and more frustratingly annoying fur any English tourist tae find their way aboot. Arguments and opinions begin tae get more and more heated and radical the closer the referendum results are tae being announced.

    There is also the blossoming relationship between the handsome Chef Richard and cute waitress Toni to contend wi tae, when they're both no up in each others faces, defending their ain beliefs and political stances.

    So if ye enjoy yur average run uv the mill stories like ye enjoy a nice wee safe cup uv coffee likes, wi Milk and jist the wan sugar ken. Noo is the time tae take it completely bitter black... wi jist a wee pinch uv salt fur gid measure, ken whit ah mean.

    Warning 'May contain crude Scots dialect'

    If you would like to read the book or even just check out some sample chapters, then I can send you a copy in any file format you desire.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail and I hope to hear from you again soon, even if just to say no thanks.

    Cheers and kind regards

    Sean-Paul Thomas