And it is easy to see why - The Young Team, written in a distinctive North Lanarkshire dialect, combines both an astonishing, radical linguistic creativity with an unfaltering commitment to recording the realities of working class life. Its success has made Armstrong something of a genuine literary phenomenon - or a big man, as we might call him up in Scotland.
Indeed, Armstrong is that rare thing, a writer whose work has become a tangible part of a social material, as has Armstrong himself. This writing is not a secretive alchemy, performed in private, but almost a public pursuit - these sentences are figuratively enmeshed in the very brickwork of communities, echoed in the mouths of their inhabitants. Armstrong’s work is taught in schools, prisons and community workshops, where he regularly visits to speak with readers, and he has been invited to give keynote speeches to policymakers in Scottish Government conferences - very few contemporary authors, if any, could claim this kind of political and social influence. As Armstrong notes, seeing your language, your community, your life, so searingly represented on the page has been a genuinely transformative experience for readers. This is truly the kind of literature that changes lives, even saves them. It easily puts him on par with Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting, whom Armstrong credits with this same leverage - now Armstrong is doing likewise.
Ahead of his appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he will be in conversation with Booker Prize winner James Kelman - a fellow legend of Scottish literature - and some of the other nominees on the Granta list, Graeme was generous enough to share some of the experiences behind The Young Team, and the power of language, realism and lived experience in composing such a powerful, metamorphic narrative.