Both a prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, and an alternative version of it, Skagboys is Irvine Welsh's greatest work.
Mark Renton seems to have it all: he's the first in his family to go to university, he's young, has a pretty girlfriend and a great social life. But Thatcher's government is destroying working-class communities across Britain, and the post-war certainties of full employment, educational opportunity and a welfare state are gone. When his badly handicapped younger brother dies the family bonds start to weaken, his life flips out of control, and he succumbs to the defeatism and the heroin which has taken hold in Edinburgh's grimmer areas.
His friends face similar challenges. Spud Murphy is paid off from his job and faces long-term unemployment, while Tommy Lawrence feels that only love can save him from being sucked into a life of petty crime and violence -- exemplified respectively by the thieving Matty Connell and psychotic Franco Begbie. And then there is Sick Boy, the supreme manipulator of the opposite sex, scamming and hustling his way through life.
Skagboys charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to the heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community. This is the 1980s: not the sanitized version, of upbeat pop music, mullets, shoulder-pads and MTV, but a time of drugs, poverty, AIDS, violence, political strife and hatred -- and maybe just a little love; a decade which changed Britain for ever. The prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, this is an exhilarating and moving book, full of the scabrous humour, salty vernacular and appalling behaviour that has made Irvine Welsh a household name.
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books (May 6 2013)