At the end of Trainspotting, the characters’ lives seemed mapped out until death – apart from Mark Renton, who gave fate and his friends the lastminute slip by stealing the proceeds of a drug deal and escaping to Amsterdam. But everyone else’s doom looked fixed. Thinking about psycho hardman Francis Begbie’s newborn son, Michael, Renton could see the family’s future clearly: “That kid’s name wis doon fae HM Prison Saughton when it was still in [Begbie’s girlfriend] June’s womb, as sure as the foetus of a rich bastard is Eton-bound. While this process is going on, daddy Franco will be whair he is now: the boozer.”
But that certainty didn’t stop Welsh from returning to his characters, first in Trainspotting sequel Porno, then in prequel Skagboys. And now there’s The Blade Artist: the return of Begbie, who is not in the boozer or even called Begbie any more. Reformed and rechristened, he has become Jim Francis, an artist living in California with a beautiful wife and two doted-on daughters. Although at first he appears to have bucked Renton’s premonitions, Begbie’s salvation quickly starts to come unstuck – first when his California family is threatened, and then when he learns that his younger son, Sean, has been murdered in Edinburgh.