Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Sep 11, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

skagboys

Author Irvine Welsh discovered 100,000 words he had cut from "Trainspotting," and thus "Skagboys" -- the book's prequel -- was born. (Photo : Barnes and Noble)

"Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh might have captured international attentions exploring the fast lives of Edinburgh heroin addicts, but the Scotish writer has settled down a bit in recent years. However, unsurprisingly though, just like the junkies he loves to write for, he couldn't stay away forever. He wrote a sequel, "Porno" to his hugely popular first novel, "Trainspotting," and now with "Skagboys," Welsh offers a prequel to the whole story.

As Welsh tells it, the whole business of a prequel was more serendipity than just an attempt to cash-in. The down time the author experienced in between projects gave him the opportunity to unpack a few old boxes -- one of which contained 100,000 words he'd cut from "Trainspotting." The result is "Skagboys."

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Acting as the new prequel to "Trainspotting," the novel depicts the lives of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie before, and during their slide into the heroin addiction and other bad behavior memorialized in Welsh's first novel.

But don't expect a simple retelling of the same old junkie fables. The new book was written with nearly three decades' perspective. "In some ways it's really good because you've got this distance and wisdom about it all," said Welsh in an interview with Metro. "On the other hand, it's not right in your face. This is kind of a hybrid of the two because a lot of the stuff was actually written at that time, so I had the advantage of being right in the heart of it all and then getting to take a 20-year break and look back at it."

Much of that perspective is on Thatcherism and other elements of British political culture in the early '80s, which play a role in the characters' addictions. "I wanted to write about how the changes in the society influenced peoples' lives in 'Trainspotting,' but it seemed to be a bit rambling," Welsh recalls. "I don't think I had the experience and the writing chops to do that at the time. Getting to go back and look at the bigger picture satisfied that and satisfied my urge to work with these characters again."

"The Eighties was this kind of a class war, which the working-classes lost, and a different kind of society was shaped in Britain . . . We are kind of seeing a lot of ramifications of that now," Welsh said in an interview with Eleanor Wachtel, later broadcast on her CBC Radio program "Writers and Company."

According to reviews, newcomers to Welsh don't need to read his previous novels to enjoy this one. Full of unique slang, and moments of surreal, violent comic releif, the writing reportedly has a similar feel to Welsh's other novels in the series. 

Read an excerpt from "Skagboys" below:

"52. JUNK DILEMNAS 5.

The copper stares at us in utter contempt. Nae wonder; aw he sees in front ay um is this mingin c***, twitchin n spazzin oan this hard seat in the interview room. -Ah'm oan the program, ah tell um. -Check if ye like. Ah'm aw seek cause they nivir gied us enough methadone. They sais they hud tae fine-tune ma dosage. Check wi the lassie at the clinic if ye dinnae believe us.

-Boo-f******-hoo, he sais, a mean expression oan his face. -Why am I not tearing up on your behalf, my sweet, sweet friend?

This c*** has cold black eyes set in a white face. If he didnae huv a dark pudding-basin haircut and his neb wis bigger, he'd be like one ay Moira and Jimmy's budgies. The other polisman, a louche, slightly effeminate-looking blonde boy, is playing the benign role. -Just tell us who gives you that stuff, Mark. Come on pal, give us some names. You're a good lad, far too sensible tae get mixed up in aw this nonsense, he shakes his heid and then looks up at me, lip curled doon thoughfully, -Aberdeen University, no less.

-But if ye check yi'll find that ah'm oan the program...at the clinic likes.

-Bet these student birds bang like f***! In they halls ay residence. It'll be shaggin aw the time in thair, eh pal, the Pudding Basin Heided C*** goes.

-Just one name, Mark. C'mon pal, begs Captain Sensible.

-Ah telt ye, ah say, as sincerely as ah kin, -ah see this boy up at the bookies, ah jist ken him as Olly. Dinnae even know if that's his right name. Gen up. The staff at the clinic'll confirm-

-Ah suppose prison's like the halls ay residence, apart fae one thing, Pudding Basin goes, -no much chance ay a ride thair. At least, he laughs, -no the sort ay ride ye'd want, anywey!

-Just gie the clinic a quick phone, ah beg.

-If ah hear the word 'clinic' come out ay your mooth again, son...

They keep this shite gaun fir a bit, till a legal aid lawyer, whae's been appointed for us, thankfully comes in tae end the torment. The polis leave n the lawyer gadge gies us the news ah want tae hear. It's a stark choice: basically either jail (at least remand until it goes tae court) or rehab, in a new project, which ah huv tae sign up tae for 45 days, or ah'm charged wi the original offence. -It's not the easy option. It means being drug free, he explains, -even your methadone will be stopped.

-F***...ah gasp. -Ah'm no sure tae definately get a prison sentence, am ah? No jist fir thievin a poxy collection tin?

-Nothing's certain at all these days. It doesn't look good though, does it? These were monies collected by an elderly shopkeeper for an animal welfare charity.

-Ye pit it like that...ah feel ma shoodirs hunch north in acknowledgement.

The boy takes his specks off. Rubs at the indentations they've left oan the side ay his beak. -On one hand the Government are encouraging the authorities to come down hard on drug use, on the other they're acknowledging the growing problem of heroin addiction in the community. So there is the strong chance of a custodial sentence if you don't co-operate with this rehab program. Your parents are outside, and have been informed of the situation. What do you want to do?

Decisions, decisions.

-Ah'll sign up."

Excerpt courtesy of Irvinewelsh.net. 

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