Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Smokeheads” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.16  ·  Rating details ·  208 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Four friends, one weekend, gallons of whisky. What could go wrong? Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-30s ex-university mates are heading to Islay with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst. As events spiral out of control, they are all thrown into a nightmare that gets worse at every turn.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Smokeheads, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Smokeheads

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  208 ratings  ·  37 reviews

Sort order
Iain Macleod
Sep 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shite. Pointless. Repetitive. Contains two of the worst leading characters I have ever come across in a book. Over obvious and very poor dialogue. And a conclusion so unsatisfying and flat I felt like chucking the book in the fire. With its ultra short chapters it reads more like a detailed scene breakdown for a film than an actual novel. But don't let that put you off buying the book from me on Amazon Marketplace. (£3.50 folks, the lowest price there!)
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Smokeheads follows the fortunes of four men on a lads' weekend away to Islay, the famous Scottish whisky island. Islay whisky is often smoky, hence whisky tourists are known as "smokeheads".

Smokeheads is a pacy story - perhaps not entirely credible - but is an amusing short read. It is quite violent and that may not be apparent from the cover blurb but it is really nothing that fans of tartan noir can't cope with. There's plenty of atmospheric scenery - peat bogs, rugged coastline, Bowmore's rou
Rog Harrison
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted a paperback to read on a long train journey so borrowed this from the library. Four friends who like whisky go on a trip to Islay. "Smokeheads" is apparently what the islanders call the tourists who like the local whiskies. I think my main problem was that I did not like any of the four characters so I was not bothered when bad things happened to them. Some exciting events do take place but I did not find that the author actually managed to convey much excitement in his writing. I doubt ...more
Fiona M
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Of the Doug Johnstone books I’ve read this was the poorest in terms of plot and narrative and some pretty unbelievable story plots.
But it was set on Islay. It was short. I was on a train it passed a happy couple of hours away.
Alethea Bothwell
I thought this was going to be a mystery set on Islay. Not. It was an anti-adventure story.

It had a very strong female character though.
Phil Powell
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, more brilliant!
Couldn't out it down. Fantastic characters, great storyline. Highly recommended.
Nigel Bird
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
My initial thought on the title was that a ‘Smokehead’ must be a pot-smoker or a poorly organised pyromaniac. It turns out to be a term for someone who’s in love with the malt-whiskies of the Isle of Islay.
The book tells the tale of a group of 4 middle-aged men who share a love of the brown nectar. They’re taking a tour of Islay to get as many tastes of the hard stuff as they can manage. We have Adam (whisky taster extraordinaire), Roddy (coke-snorting live life to the full millionaire), Luke (e
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, j

Four friends, one weekend, gallons of whisky. What could go wrong?

Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-thirties ex-university mates are heading to Islay - the remote Scottish island world famous for its single malts - with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst.

Over a weekend soaked in the finest cask strength spirit, they meet young divorcee Molly, who Adam has a soft spot for, her little sister Ash who has all sorts of problems and Molly's ex-husband J
Sid Nuncius
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Smokeheads is the story of four middle-aged friends who take a brief trip to the small Scottish island of Islay to sample the world-famous whiskies made there. A slight sense of menace and impending doom and a somewhat clunkily-placed reference to Deliverance give the reader a pretty good idea of what is to come, and I won't spoil the book by giving away any more of the plot. It is a well-written book which eventually turned into an exciting story, but I thought it was ultimately lacking in anyt ...more
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Four friends. One Weekend. Gallons of whisky. What could go wrong?" - well, just about everything it seems.

4 late-thirties, ex-university friends with a serious passion for malt whisky set off to Islay for a weekend of sampling the products from the island's many distilleries. Within minutes of leaving the ferry terminal they, or more specifically the loud-mouthed Roddy, get on the wrong side of the local police and from there everything goes downhill - rapidly! Instead of the jolly weekend the
Ian Mapp
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour
We know that deliverance came a long time before - but did this book get written before or after the series Mad Dogs on Sky? Certainly lots of parallels, as we have four university friends, who probably don't like each other as much as they should, head off for a boys adventure that goes massively wrong.

This is a fast paced page turner that has the four 30 somethings heading off to Islay to taste the whiskey, with one of the gang aiming to talk the monied one into investing in resurrecting a dis
Apr 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
It is a long time since I read a book as awful as this one.

It is about 4 guys, who have been friends since university, on a weekend trip to Islay to visit some of the local whisky distilleries and have some fun.

One of the friends, who is a whisky buff, has plans to open his own distillery in a remote part of the island, if he can convince his rich friend to back him financially. Needless to say things don't work out quite as planned.

I found almost all of the male character unbearable and way ove
Verity (The Cosy Reading Nest)
I read this book from cover to cover one evening, it was that easy to read and I got that swept up in the momentum of the story.
Initially I found the characters difficult to connect with, and put this down to the fact that it was because they were male, however, later as the book went on I realised it was because most of the characters irritated me- not in a bad way- just in a way that made me want them to sort their lives out and realise that they should be happy with their lives, no matter how
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read and enjoyed Hit and Run by the same author and this book is similar in a lot of ways. The author proposes a scenario (I hate that word, redolent of union meetings, but it fits here) and then expands it along an unlikely path with many dead ends along the way. Like Hit and Run, Smokeheads has its fair share of gory violence, so beware those of a gentle temperament. I didn't give it the full 5*s because:

1. The constant references to whisky tasting became overpowering and pointless.

2. I felt
Lorna Hanlon
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
I thought it would be a lot better. It was fast and pacey, the characters were reasonably vivid, but I just didn't get it. It said there was a lot of humour in it, but I failed to find any of it funny. It left me flat - I finished it in 2 days, but that was probably because I kept reading to see where the point was, or where it got better. The only point I could find in the whole book was that the author wanted to show off some level of knowledge about Scottish Malt Whisky, which he did, again, ...more
It was only quite okay. Galloped along, fast enough, reasonably believable in places but ... the lightness of Adam!! ... and the several holes in possibility (survival of blood loss, snow and immersion in an icy loch) refused to let me suspend the sense of being told a story sufficiently to ever be fully absorbed.
I also hoped the final pair would do the decent thing, returning from Port Ellen.
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott McWhinney
2 stars may be too kind. I enjoyed the plot of this book and was thoroughly frustrated by the clumsy writing that stymied it at every turn. The characters were one dimensional and there was no variation in the voices used for each. The ridiculous pace precluded any thought of depth and all I can say in the books defence is it didn't take long to get through.
Jari Pirhonen
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Bought this book on sale only because it's about bunch of whisky-nuts going to home islands of Scottish malt. Four friends, who don't have much common anymore, besides love of whisky, get into trouble with local smugglers. Story wasn't so great, but descriptions of whisky tasting and distilleries made it worth reading.
Andy Weston
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Disappointing - I was very keen to read this with it's great setting and subject matter of whisky - but the author opted for a fast-paced thriller - not what I was expecting - too far-fetched also, but still I enjoyed the setting!
Craig Nicol
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it
easy to read, although the characterisation is a little light. Passes the time well, and gives a reasonable feel for Islay scenery, but be warned as there are some brutal scenes hidden inside a book that looks like a light thriller on the cover.
Brandon Nagel
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
SMOKEHEADS and HIT & RUN were both fantastic. Read them if you havn't already.
Jane Dickie
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
really good read
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well worth a read.
Colin Galbraith
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Great idea but but didn't fulfil its potential. Finished several chapters too early.
David Meakin
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Absolutely ridiculous, but highly entertaining.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
could almost taste the single malts , a must for anyone who is into there whiskeys and adventure .
Kel Sta
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A B-grade movie waiting to happen. Lost weekend reading about a lost weekend. Escapism of the not uplifting at all variety.
Oct 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
Meh! Lame Christopher Brookmyre wannabe.
Craig Cooper
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
A good read, does exactly what it says on the back cover I guess, felt like it finished too soon though, as if the ending had been rushed. Left me a bit unsatisfied.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His fourth novel, Hit & Run, is published by Faber and Faber on March 15th 2012. His previous novel, Smokeheads, was published in March 2011, also by Faber. before that he published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008), which received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Chris ...more
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »