Irvine Welsh: Keeping track of the ‘Trainspotting’ boys

“I wanted to write about how the changes in the society influenced peoples’ lives in ‘Trainspotting,’” says Welsh about his latest book, “Skagboys.”

Describing himself as “pretty itinerant,” Irvine Welsh rattles off the list of cities that he’s called, to some degree, home: Edinburgh, Amsterdam, London, Manchester, Dublin, San Francisco. The Scottish author has settled down a bit in recent years, which 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,” the new prequel that 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. 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,” Welsh says. “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.”


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