Dead Men’s Trousers by Irvine Welsh
Mark Renton is finally a success. An international jet-setter, he now makes significant money managing DJs, but the constant travel, airport lounges, soulless hotel rooms and broken relationships have left him dissatisfied with his life. He’s then rocked by a chance encounter with Frank Begbie, from whom he’d been hiding for years after a terrible betrayal and the resulting debt. But the psychotic Begbie appears to have reinvented himself as a celebrated artist and – much to Mark’s astonishment – doesn’t seem interested in revenge.Sick Boy and Spud, who have agendas of their own, are intrigued to learn that their old friends are back in town, but when they enter the bleak world of organ-harvesting, things start to go so badly wrong. Lurching from crisis to crisis, the four men circle each other, driven by their personal histories and addictions, confused, angry – so desperate that even Hibs winning the Scottish Cup doesn’t really help. One of these four will not survive to the end of this book. Which one of them is wearing Dead Men’s Trousers?
At the end of The Blade Artist, I was crapping it to find out what was happening next. After ending on a totally holy shit moment, Welsh picks up Dead Men’s Trousers from that precise point - thank fuck.
I love these boys, and reading this book was murder. Desperate to just zoom through, to inhale the violence, the shagging, the plots, the revenge, I forced myself to go as slowly as possible and savour every moment. It was torture.
Where The Blade Artist focuses on Begbie, showing us how he believes he’s changed, then highlighting how he hasn’t changed at all, DMT finally gets all of the boys back together again - successful, off the skag, but still inherently the same boys they were when we first met them in Trainspotting. The old grudges are still there, their knee-jerk reactions are the same; Begbie’s still a psycho, Renton’s still battling demons, Sick Boy’s still a selfish conceited shagger, and Spud - Spud is still that golden-hearted wee boy in a fifty year old’s body.
Seeing them all behave exactly as we would expect them to was gorgeous; seeing them do things we would never have cooked up in a million years was total fucking chaos. Organ harvesting, STDs, new hallucinogenic drugs, homewrecking, and, most inconceivably, our favourite catboy has got himself a dug. The pace was incredible.
We knew from social media (and, indeed, from the above blurb), that one of the boys wasn’t going to survive the novel. Although it doesn’t happen until the book is almost over, the finger points to one of them pretty quickly. You think you’ve cracked it until the boys start to turn on one another, and you really have no idea who is heading to the Embra in the sky. The tension was unreal, and when it finally happened I cried like a big embarrassment for about forty minutes. When I then realised where the title came from, it set me off again for another half an hour.
I can’t see myself ever saying otherwise, but Welsh has played yet another blinder. Another speeding headfuck from my favourite band of former skagheeds.