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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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… - Literary Review
Trainspotting may be a masterpiece but Skagboys is the reason the artist painted it, and sometimes that's the most compelling story. - Stylist
One of the most significant writers in Britain. He writes with style, imagination, wit and force. - Times Literary Supplement
Welsh's knack for dialogue - both ineternal and conversational - remains virtuosic and often exhilarating. It makes for characters you can't help but care about even the psychopaths and amoral chancers like Begbie and Sick Boy... Welsh's finest work to date. - The Times
Welsh performs the mysterious feat of making you think that his characters are real. - Guardian
It’s brilliant and even more thrilling than its predecessor. - Mail on Sunday
Quite simply a masterpiece…at least as assured and vibrant in its characterization as Trainspotting, Skagboys is even more on the money politically… This novel more than any other, (including its brilliant predecessor) stands as our spiritual and moral history. - Scotsman
It was never going to be light reading, but Welsh's vigour, wit and energy still make it compulsive. - Vogue
Skagboys is a compelling tale…a seriously entertaining piece of work. - The Irish Times
If you too loved the colloquial tangle of Trainspotting, you'll find a similar rhythm in Skagboys. - Word Magazine
There is enough of what Welsh does well - needle-sharp dialogue, vivid characters and a certainty of place - to make Skagboys his best work in many years…an essential read. - Irish Examiner
A cracking read. - Time Out
Very good. - Prospect
Irvine Welsh returned to rip-roaring form with Skagboys ... possibly better even than Trainspotting. His psychological mining into Mark Renton in particular is full, elaborate and rich and his viewpoint on society and politics is far wider than in previous books. - Scotsman