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Skagboys [Hardcover]

Irvine Welsh
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.23 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

19 April 2012

Mark Renton has it all: he's good-looking, young, with a pretty girlfriend and a place at university. But there's no room for him in the 1980s. 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 family starts to fracture, Mark's life swings out of control and he succumbs to the defeatism which has taken hold in Edinburgh's grimmer areas. The way out is heroin.

It's no better for his friends. Spud Murphy is paid off from his job, Tommy Lawrence feels himself being sucked into a life of petty crime and violence - the worlds of the thieving Matty Connell and psychotic Franco Begbie. Only Sick Boy, the supreme manipulator of the opposite sex, seems to ride the current, scamming and hustling his way through it all.

Skagboys charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to the heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community. This is the 1980s: a time of drugs, poverty, AIDS, violence, political strife and hatred - but a lot of laughs, 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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (19 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224087908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224087902
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Irvine Welsh was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Raised in the tenement homes of Leith, the prefabs in West Pilton and the maisonettes in Muirhouse, he attended Ainslie Park Secondary School. At sixteen, he left education and took on various jobs, and eventually moved to London in the seventies. There he dabbled with the property market while spending his free time exploring the London punk scene. He then moved back to Edinburgh to study an MBA.

Back home, and inspired by the nineties rave scene, he was fortunate enough to run into some fascinating characters whom he immortalised in his diary - and, later, in the pages of Trainspotting. At first dismissed for its unmarketable content, Trainspotting shot Welsh to fame, precipitated further by the release of the film, by Danny Boyle, three years later.

Since then he has written eight other works of fiction. He currently lives in Chicago.

Product Description


"Welsh's descriptive style is masterful - crude, violent and poetic by turns - but it is dialogue for which he has the Midas touch... Its banter, outrage and razor wit sing off the page. A film, one suspects, isn't far off." (Arifa Akbar Independent)

"The voice of punk, grown up, grown wiser and grown eloquent." (The Times)

"I'm not sure that in 2012 there will be a single novel, never mind half a dozen, with more verve or nous or life in it than Skagboys. Ye kin pure tell they Booker gadgies'll no huv the baws but." (Anthony Cummins Literary Review)

"I ended up charmed beyond measure, if that is the right word for a novel whose odd moments of poignance are regularly booted into touch by death, disillusionment and dereliction." (D J Taylor Spectator)

"Trainspotting may be a masterpiece but Skagboys is the reason the artist painted it, and sometimes that's the most compelling story." (Joanna McGarry Stylist)

Book Description

A prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, this is Irvine Welsh's greatest work and where it all went wrong for the boys...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I make no bones about it 10 April 2012
I enjoyed this book more than any of IW's for about ten years. Like most long novels it has a few dull moments, but overall it's a gripping read: I raced through it. There are two or three spots where IW seems to be straining for a big dramatic or comedic affect, but the power of the book really comes from the slow accretion of telling detail. (Is that what you call realism? I think so.)

A couple of those small details seemed not quite right for the 1980s, as I remember them, but what did seem 100% right was the overall feel of that sad decade. That strikes me as much more important, and I can't remember another novel that evokes working class Scottish life in the 1980s so accurately - well, one or two by James Kelman match it, but JK's are hard to pin down to specific decades, unlike this one.

IW seems to be trying to write a semi-documentary work, and I think he succeeds: it certainly took me back, whether I wanted to be taken back to those painful times or not. I don't think you have to have read Trainspotting to enjoy this: it makes sense in its own right.

Talking of other books, one I would like to read is IW's autobiography. It never occurred to me before, but the parts of this book that seem most personal and autobiographical - and I say SEEM, because I have no way of knowing if they really are - are the most powerful. The beautifully handled scenes in the Fife rehab house, for instance. As I came to the end of those temporarily optimistic pages, and the entirely believable tragedy of the conclusion started to seep in, then build and build, I found myself filled with renewed admiration for the tremendous storytelling skills of IW. And I also found myself, for the first time since Trainspotting, wondering how much of this was real.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful return to form 28 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had wondered if Irvine Welsh would ever get back to his best. I loved Trainspotting, Acid House, Marabou Stork Nightmares, Porno and a couple of others. But most recently he seems to have become a shadow of his former self. In particular, the awful "Master Chefs" was painful to read - was this really the same author that wrote Trainspotting, or some of the wonderful short stories in the Acid House.

So I bought this book with a sense of trepidation - but I needn't have worried. It's great, I loved every word of it. I was absorbed, back in the eighties with anti-hero Renton and the ever psychotic Francis Begbie. If you've lost faith with IW over the years, this is time to come back to the fold.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't think of a title 10 Nov 2013
This review is addressed to readers who, like me, had not previously read any Irvine Welsh' work.

I loved the movie of Trainspotting but never got round to reading the book. Perhaps if I had read it before Skagboys, I might have got into its idiom and its loose structure much more quickly. For anyone unfamiliar with either, I would warn anyone that they will have to decipher the Scottish patois of the main characters and not to expect a single overarching narrative structure.

What you get is a series of loosely connected events in the lives of a group of late teens/early 20s 1980s Leith men and women whose lives seem to revolve around heroin, unemployment, petty crime, loads of sex and football. Sometimes I found it hard to establish which character was speaking in each chapter, only discovering who it was some way into the chapter. The main character is Mark Renton, a highly intelligent university student who should by rights be escaping the low aspirations and hopelessness of 'Thatcher's Britain' through education but instead appears to be following the same self destructiveness of the other characters. Other characters also have voice but many are not given enough explanation to put them into any context.

If this sounds a bit serious, I am sorry. Once you get to know the characters and get used to the style of writing, it is a hugely entertaining read and although it took me nearly 5 weeks to read, I was quite sorry it came to an end - especially as it ends on a cliffhanger.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skagboys 23 July 2012
By gillpen
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book to take on holiday and immediately had to divide the number of pages by the number of days I had on holiday as I had to ration myself reading it. If I hadn't I would have finished it too quickly and would have had no reading material left! It is ironically addictive: Irvine Welsh does not disappoint on the humour or horror aspects for which he is known and loved. I felt that I had the characters on holiday with me and was almost lonely when the book was done. I loved every bit of it and for any Irvine Welsh fans out there, you will not be let down.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A five star read 28 May 2012
Skagboys is a worthy prequel in the 'Trainspotting' trilogy and a five star read. In the novel the exploits of its now famous four characters (Rents, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie) come of age in the Thatcherite dystopia of early 1980s working class Edinburgh. Welsh's characters face a world of tough choices, unemployment, drugs and generational poverty with a headlong rage that is the authors trademark. The hardback books hefty 548 pages highlights the family friends and developing `love interests' of the principal characters as they move, mate and scheme from the Port of Leith and into the wider world. Skagboys is vintage Welsh, with some of the best characterisation to date of his anti heroes at work rest and play. The novel is at times sad, bad, hilarious and profound with imagery and dialogue that's pure catnip to the converted/perverted Welsh reader.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Brilliant is an understatement, top class now looking forward to reading all of Welsh,s work, hopefully just as riverting and gripping
Published 20 hours ago by Dean
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, gritty Welsh
As with all of Irvine Welsh books I've read I was repulsed and delighted in equal measure. His ability to write of situations that leaves you feeling sticky and physically unclean... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Matt Shinn
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralling
Pretty scary, kind of glamorises heroin. Excellent read though, another classic by welsh.
Not my favourite but it's up there, still not as good as glue.
Published 6 days ago by Ian
1.0 out of 5 stars Skagboys
ONce again a brilliant book from Irvine Welsh. If Anyone is tempted to try heroin they should read this book first.Hopefully it will change their mind. Five stars
Published 10 days ago by babar
5.0 out of 5 stars Typical Welsh brilliance.
As with all of Irvine's books you travel on a journey with the characters, you feel as if you are watching the action as it happens.
Published 1 month ago by ACD
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Superb book hope they do a film version it's got so many laugh out loud moments in it and it's great too see how all the characters evolved loved the Edinburgh slang too for me... Read more
Published 1 month ago by pimple
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A wonderful return to form . Having read glue and porno it's been interesting to read the back stories of all these characters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ryan Strachan
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I really like Trainspotting (both the book and movie) and was keen to read this prequel however I was pretty disappointed and in parts found reading it pretty hard going, and dare... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Minimoo
4.0 out of 5 stars THE REALITY OF DRUGS
Compelling read from start to finish.Some parts make you squirm and some parts make you laugh out loud.Recommended to anyone with a sense of humour and an open mind.
Published 1 month ago by colin paterson
3.0 out of 5 stars started well
Trainspotting is one of my favourite books, so I really looked forward to reading about Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie et al again. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rachael Lucas
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