Book Review: Dead Men’s Trousers, by Irvine Welsh

The fifth and final novel in the infamous Trainspotting series, picking up where “The Blade Artist” left us hanging, literally, in mid-air.


It’s been 25 years since Irvine Welsh emerged onto the literary landscape and introduced us to four young lads from Scotland. The novel was Trainspotting; the lads, Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, Francis “Franco” Begbie, Simon “Sick-Boy” Williamson, and Daniel “Spud” Murphy.

The lads have come a long way across three other novels: Porno (filmed as Trainspotting 2); the retrospective Skag Boys; and, most recently, the Franco-focused novel, The Blade Artist.

Welsh’s latest novel, Dead Men’s Trousers, picks up where The Blade Artist left us hanging, literally, in mid-air. On a trans-Atlantic flight, after many years, Mark “Rent Boy” Renton comes face-to-face with his old mate and arch-nemesis, Franco, the same man he ripped-off and left for dead. Franco however, is a changed man – reformed psychopath, renowned artist and family man…well, mostly reformed.

The two find themselves back in Scotland and soon reunited with their old mates, Sick Boy, who is still working the sex industry, this time through an exclusive escort service, and Spud, who is (as ever) an addict. Renton is now an extremely successful Music Manager and, as such, feels the need to repay old debts and clear his conscience, once and for all.

This will be the final time the quartet engage with each other. Tying up storylines left over from The Blade Artist, as well introducing new adventures in organ harvesting and sexual escapades, this novel is Welsh’s climax of the series. It’s written in the vernacular which die-hard fans have become accustomed and is a roller-coaster ride that also features characters from other novels, particularly the often-present “Juice Terry” Lawson. The only let-down of the novel is the telegraphing of the advised individual’s identity – he who wears the “dead men’s trousers”, but his passing is still deeply felt.

Welsh has left some strands untied, opening up the potential for a return to the lives of the Scot’s lads despite his adamant stating that this will be the last. So, if you’re a fan, slip into these ‘troosers’, Donald, they’ll fit ye, comfortably.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: April 2018
RRP:  $39.99 hardcover, $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook

Rating out of 10:  8

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