Skagboys NPR coverage of Skagboys by Irvine Welsh. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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by Irvine Welsh

Paperback, 640 pages, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., List Price: $16.95 |


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Hardcover, 532 pages, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., $26.95, published September 17 2012 | purchase

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Book Summary

Skagboys chronicles the misadventures of Mark Renton and his friends as they cope with economic uncertainties, family problems, drug use and the opposite sex in 1980s Edinburgh.

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Skagboys

I Did What I Did

Eight birthday cards arrived this morning: all from girly-wirlies, and that ain't counting my mother and sisters. Sweet as you fucking well like. One from Marianne, with a sad 'call me' plea, after the desperate showboating of foxy love notes and kisses. Probably taking stock ay the fact that she's becoming a crushing bore; aw this 'come to my sister's wedding' guff. Dae ah look like Consort-at-a-Schemie-fest material? Still, she's back in the fold, and therefore most serpently getting pumped with prejudice later.

Of course, the upbeat mood is spoiled by a filthy brown envelope fae the dole, inviting me tae a job interview for the plum garage attendant's post at Canonmills. Thrilled to bits they're thinking of Simone, but I must respectfully decline, with a wee word tae my mate Gav Temperley at the dole office about this unwanted intrusion. Working chappies fail to understand the minds of men of leisure. I am not employed through choice, you fucking cretins; please dinnae mistake me for one of those hapless drones who wander around town in a trance, searching for non-existent labour.

Garage attendant. Not in this fuckin life, Milksnatcher and Bike Boy. Get the Billionaire Playboy cairds up in your shitey offices, then I just might be interested!

But the best present comes in the form of a phone call. Happy twinty-second birthday, Simon David Williamson; Cunty Baws has finally left the building! I'm taking the news, conveyed by my sister Louisa, in one breathless, gasping utterance, with a triumphant punch in the air. A quick look at the dictionary, it's an 'M' day today, and I decide my new word is:

MYOPIA, noun, nearsightedness. lack of imagination, foresight or intellectual insight.

Then ah'm heading right doon tae the Bannanay flats!

Ya fuckin beauty!

As ah hit the foot ay the Walk it starts tae pish doon; cauld, skin-stinging rain, but I crack a smile, stretching my bare, T-shirted arms out, and raising my head to the sky on this beautiful day, letting the bounty of the good Lord cool my skin.

Tae the business at hand; ah get up tae the Williamson rabbit hutch on the second floor of this systems-built warren that dominates the old port proper, not the shite south ay Junction Street and Duke Street, which ah refuse tae acknowledge as real Leith. — Simon ... son ... my mother pleads, but ignoring her and Louisa and Carlotta, I immediately go tae the parental boudoir, tae check that the vain, posturing prick has emptied the jackets and shirts fae his wardrobe. A sure sign that he's genuinely flown the coop rather than this all being a device for future manipulative leverage. My heart races as I pull the creaky door open. Yes! All gone! YA FUCKIN BEAUTY!

God, after all he's put her through, you'd think she'd be delighted, but Mama's sitting on the couch sobbing and cursing the skanker that's stolen his brass heart. — That hoor that'sa brainwashed him!

Non capisco!

She should be thanking the demented muppet for taking that dirty, slimy leech off her hands. But no: Lousia, my older sister, is sobbing with her, and my younger one, Carlotta, sits at her feet like a daft wee lassie. They look like an Amsterdam Jewish family, who've come back tae find the man ay the house carted off tae the camps!

He's only fucking well kipped up wi some minger!

Ah sink doon on my knees beside them, holding my mother's chubby hand, still wi his poxy rings on it, stroking Carlotta's long, dark locks with my other paw. — He cannae mess us aroond any more, Mama. It's the best move for everybody. No sense in being myopic here.

She sobs into a hanky, displaying the grey roots in her inky-dyed and stiffly lacquered hair. — Ah cannae believe it. Ah mean, ah always kenta he was-ah sinner, she says in her halting Scheme-Eyetie accent, — but ah never-ah thoughta he'd dae this ...

Ah came doon here tae provide support, practical if necessary, fuck, ah wis even ready tae help the prick pack, but he'd blissfully gone. If ah kent it was all gaunny be that smooth ah'd have broken the bank and bought some Moët Chandon! I ultra want tae celebrate. Twinty-fuckin-second! All I get here, though, is gloom, despair and greeting puses.

Fuck that. I stand up, and leaving them bubbling away, head ootside onto the landing for a cigarette. Ye almost have tae admire the bastard for the iron hold he has ower them. My father: David Kenneth Williamson. Ah've seen the pictures of the old girl when she was young; a dark, sultry Latin beauty, before the pasta kicked in and she mushroomed to her current HGV proportions. How the fuck did she faw for that shifty-looking spunkbag?

The rain has stopped and the sun's back out strongly, removing any evidence ay the shower's existence save for a few puddles in the uneven paving stones on the concrete of Schemesville below. That's what ah should dae, go through the hoose and remove all lingering traces of that cunt. Instead, ah take a deep, satisfying inhalation on my Marlboro.

Looking down over a sunnier-than-ever Leith, I-spy-with-my-little-eye Coke Anderson and his wife and kids getting oot ay a motor. The missus, Janey, is an old banger for sure, defo a looker in her day, and still worth one at a push. She's arguing wi Coke, who's lurching behind, pished again as usual. The daft cunt hasnae had a sober day since the docks pensioned him off on med retirement, back in the day of Our Lord fuck-knows-when. Ah feel sorry for the young boy, Grant, he's about eight or nine, as I know how mortifying an auld felly who refuses to shape up can be; though with mine it was generally women rather than bevvy that provided the embarrassment. But heh-low ... ride alert, ride alert ... the daughter has turned oot a right wee fuckin belter! Probably be a baboon-morphed bloated slag by the time she's eighteen, but I certainly wouldnae mind getting a wee taste ay that sweet, sweet honey before it goes oaf!

Ah hear their verbal conflict continue as they mount the stairs, Coke's nasal apologetic whine, — But, Ja-ney ... ah jist met a couple ay the boys, Ja-ney ... nice tae be nice, but, eh?

What's the daughter's name again ... come tae Simon ...

— Change the record, for God sakes, Janey moans, turning the stair bend and looking briefly at me before rubbernecking back tae Coke, – jist stey oot, Colin! Dinnae bother us, eh!

Ah acknowledge the wee Grant felly's beetroot coupon with an empathetic smile. Feeling your pain, Sonny Jim. And the daughter is behind him, pouting with sulky teen lips like a model who's just been told there's one more outfit change and another catwalk prance before she can indulge in that much needed line ay charlie and a vodka martini.

— Simon, Janey says curtly as she passes me, but the wee honey, Maria, her name is, gies me the snooty treatment. Very blonde and tan, I believe they're no long back fae a family holiday in Majorca (where Coke inevitably disgraced himself), the skin tone brought up by that tight black skirt and light yellow top.

And suddenly that name ...

That'll be the last ever family holiday that wee yin goes on. It'll be viva Fucksy Central wi a bunch ay mates or some lucky, lusty local lad fae now on in. And Simon David Williamson here might just be putting himself in the frame for that particular vacancy. Louisa used tae babysit her, n ah should've taken mair interest, just on the off chance she'd turn oot a stunner. But who could have forecast that plain wee podger would have evolved intae a catwalk creamer in the space ay six months?

Coke is lurching up behind them all, and finally, wheezingly turning onto the balcony, befuddled pus glaring in appeal, palms upturned, — Aw but, Ja-ney ...

The wife and kids trudge inside their designated council hutch and Coke lurches past me, looking scarecrow-daft in profile as the door slams in his coupon. He stands there for a second or two, before turning back tae me in bemused shock.

— Coke.

— Simon ...

Ah don't fancy going back inside to hear Mama and mie sorelle snivelling mindlessly over the departed bastard, and Coke seems Scotland Yard from his place. I've only been away for a year, but the transformation in wee Maria in that time is nothing short ay breathtaking. More info needed for the detailed files. — Fancy a pint? It's ma birthday!

The prospect of mair pish briefly lifts Coke's jakey spirits. — Ah'm a bit short ...

Ah consider this for a second. What's in it for me? A possible parental intro tae the family estate, and the opportunity tae woo the delightful Maria. It's an investment, and Old Baxter's rent money will just have tae wait a wee bitty. Besides, my gainfully employed ginger-heided buddy is moving in, tired with family strife at Chez Renton. Well, Rents will be rent boy this month. — My shout, buddy. The birthday boy's in the chair!

From Skagboys by Irvine Welsh. Copyright 2012 by Irvine Welsh. Excerpted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.