Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Irvine Welsh- Skagboys

I've a big Irvine Welsh fan and Skagboys has been on my reading agenda since it came out last year. Skagboys is the prequel to the phenomenally successful and critically acclaimed Trainspotting.

A word of warning- Skagboys includes graphic depictions of drug taking and substance abuse. There are adult themes throughout, including violence, rape, molestation and death. It is not a book for people who are squeamish or easily triggered.
just like to point out, the white power is flour, and the tablets are either vitamins or prescriptions meds. 
The Plot: Charting the turbulent lives of four Scottish lads in the 1980's, from youthful optimism and potential to a downwards spiral of  fractured relationships, petty crime, violence and addiction, Skagboys revels in both the hedonism and deprivation in Thatcher's Britain.

I've read a few of Irvine Welsh's novels and in my opinion Skagboys comes closest to equalling the brilliance of Trainspotting. The novel is energetic and raw, the speed of the narrative is fast-paced and restless, which perfectly mirrors the impulsive and reckless behaviour of the protagonists. Towards the end of the novels the tone becomes more introspective and considered, as Renton reflects on his addiction.

Irvine Welsh is very clever in the way he doesn't glorify substance abuse or offer simplified explanations or solutions for addiction.  Skagboys manages to be politicised (Welsh is clearly no fan of Thatcher) without being sanctimonious.

SkagBoys is written in phonetic Scots, which may take some getting used to. Personally, I think it is effective and an integral part of the novels authenticity. There a section that comes quite late in the book where Renton discusses why he is writing his rehab diary in phonetic Scots, although I think Irvine Welsh is being tongue-in-cheek, I think he does raise valid point about dialect representation in literature.

For a novel that deals with such a grim subject, there is also a lot of warmth and humour. Although the friendship between Renton, Sick Boy and Spud is toxic as they act as enablers for each others drug use, they also have camaraderie and in-jokes. I'm sure people who were young in the 80's will relate to the riffs on music, clubbing and making cassette mix-tapes. Even the names of the characters, 'Second Prize', 'Spud', are of the era, most of my parent's school friends seems to have incomprehensible nicknames.


  1. Hi,

    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

    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

    1. Hello Sean-Paul,

      Sorry about the late reply- I'd love to read and review your book. From what I've read from the extract, it sounds right up my street. If you'd like to send the ebook to my email (, I'd be happy to make a start.