Alan Warner is one of the most exciting voices to emerge in Scottish fiction in the past decade. Over the course of three novels (These Demented Lands, Morvern Callar, and The Sopranos) he has won three literary awards, enjoyed massive critical acclaim and had three films adapted from his writings. Not bad for a writer who hid his first book in a box under his bed.
A master at depicting the dark, depraved underbelly of society through the voices of mordantly existential protagonists, Warner's writing is compelling and lurid but can often be absurdly amusing. His new novel is no exception, and will provide a challenging and rewarding experience for his readers.
The book follows a homeless drifter as he tries to track down his uncle - "The Man Who Walks" - who has gone walkabout in the remote Scottish Highlands. The reason for his pursuit is that "The Man Who Walks" has appallingly thieved over £20,000 from the World Cup kitty of the Mantrap pub.
In the course of his manhunt, the nephew has a number of encounters with a curious cast of characters who wander the Scottish Highlands dabbling in drink, drugs, and whatever else takes their fancy. These oddball characters have names like Tracy the Trolley, Hacker, Syrupy Piece and Raincheck.
Admittedly, the plot is weighed down at times by the visceral lavishness of its prose, but it's unlikely you'll want to put the book down until tired eyes tell you otherwise. With this, his fourth book, Alan Warner has written the best Scottish novel of the year, a bigger achievement than it sounds.