x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pack Men: much ado about a forgettable match

Alan Bissett's novel, set amid the migration by thousands of Glasgow Rangers football club fans for the 2008 Uefa Cup final, fails to live up to a ringing endorsement from Irvine Welsh.

Set amid the mass, temporary true-life migration to Manchester by thousands of Glasgow Rangers football club fans to watch the 2008 Uefa Cup final, Alan Bissett's latest novel arrives complete with a ringing endorsement from Irvine Welsh, once the most famous author in Scotland, who describes Pack Men as "unique and special. I honestly haven't read anything as impressive as this from a Scottish writer in yonks."

Such fulsome praise is designed to be deliberately eye-catching. Pack Men is, indeed, the sort of novel Welsh used to write (and write very well), full as it is with football, drugs, drink, music, and a firm grip on colloquial and (it's fair to say) colourful language.

Sadly, the comparisons end there. Bissett's cast of characters are nowhere near as engaging as those Welsh used to muster so masterfully, and the incident the author plunders to provide the event at the novel's core - that midweek, high-profile football match in Manchester - is not of great historical import. That violence and redemption eventually arrive is, when they inevitably do, of no great concern either.