Friday, 28 December 2012

Staff Picks - Best Books of 2012: Layth

Skagboys is Scottish author, Irvine Welsh’s third run at the Trainspotting storyline he started back in 1993. He returned to the characters in 2002 for a sequel, Porno, set about seven years onwards from the events of Trainspotting. Now, a decade after the sequel Welsh has returned to the grey port of Leith in Scotland to tell you how it all got started. Everybody has made a return for this much anticipated sequel; the cynical, red headed Mark Renton; the slick and charming Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson; the dopey yet good natured ‘Spud’ Murphy; the intelligent but easily led Tommy Lawrence and the psychotic and ever threatening Franco Begbie. Welsh takes us back to before most of them became the junkies we were introduced to in Trainspotting. He reaches far back into the pasts of these characters and, having read the other two books in the trilogy by this point, I felt like I was really allowed a deep insight into what makes these people tick. 

My favourite thing about Welsh’s writing is his amazing ability to build extended universes. All of his books, not just those in the Trainspotting trilogy, all take place within the same universe’ more often than not in the Port of Leith or the wider area of Edinburgh. This is done expertly in Skagboys as Welsh not only brings back old favourites but breathes a whole lot of life into characters that were merely passing by in the other novels, or even only discussed and never introduced. Another reason I just couldn’t put this book down, was the way Welsh managed to really give the reader an insight into the social and political upheavals that existed in the turbulent times of Thatchers England and how these factors (among others) went to contribute to the massive heroin epidemic of 1980s England and Scotland. 

In short, this is one of my favourite books of this year, written by one of my favourite active writers at the moment. Do yourself a favour and check him out. (Disclaimer: not for the faint of heart).


A Clockwork Orange certainly needs no introduction by now. Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novella has garnered much controversy both in its written form as well as on stage and screen. 50 years on, this comprehensive edition includes a foreword by British novelist Martin Amis and an introduction by Andrew Biswell. As well as the classic story you have come to know and love quite intimately, this edition also includes notes on the text; a glossary of ‘nadsat’, to help explain most of the gibberish Alex and his ‘droogies’ speak; as well as essays and reviews on A Clockwork Orange and, finally, a never before seen epilogue. This edition is sure to please any existing fans of the novel and any new ones that care to explore themes of human autonomy and the choice between good and evil.

Have you ever seen you dog give you ‘that look’? You know the one, they’ll sit there and stare at you with those big wide eyes, head cocked to one side, tongue protruding from a big wet grin? If so, I bet you’ve wondered what the little menace was trying to tell you. Whatever it was, it probably won’t be in this book.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Layth,

    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 stances.

    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