It's difficult to read Irvine Welsh's iconic novel "Trainspotting" without wondering what sort of life the author must have led in order to get so deeply under the skin of such dysfunctional characters living such utterly chaotic lives. Well wonder no longer. Sandy Macnair has been a friend since the days when Irvine Welsh was just a young man looking for escape from a Civil Service job he hated. More often than not, a tendency to pursue wild ideas while outrageously drunk would land himself and those around him in trouble: which was bad news at the time for Sandy Macnair, who comes over from his own account as something of a "Robin" to Welsh's "Batman".
Carspotting comprises a series of accounts of episodes in their joint lives. The episodes tend to be linked by four threads which each recur as a picture of two linked lives develops. The aforementioned "outrageous drunkenness" is an enduring theme which forms part of almost every episode, as is a tendency to fall on the wrong side of the law for generally fairly minor misdemeanours. The need to travel to appear in various courts to answer charges arising from events that took place during previous travels, resulting in repeated hitch-hiking between Edinburgh and London, is another common theme, and one which tends to give rise to scope for more drunkenness and more incidents likely to lead to further court appearances. The fourth thread linking many of the stories is the enduring enmity between the supporters of Edinburgh's two football teams.
The picture that emerges is of two young men circling the plughole of oblivion as the water drains from the sink. You get the real sense that Welsh and Macnair could easily have ended up as irretrievably lost as some of the characters in Trainspotting. It was perhaps something else that emerges from this book that prevented them doing so. The stories in Carspotting are suffused with a gentle humour that often belies their content, and with a genuine sense of friendship among a group that included the two central characters. This is a fantastic book for all fans of Irvine Welsh, and for anyone who wants an insight into life in Scotland in the era covered. Think of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" meeting Hunter S Thompson's "Fear and loathing in Las Vegas", set largely in Scotland, and you get the idea.