The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs

By Irvine Welsh

"I wanted to have one guy who was just a total bastard ... and the other guy is a nice wee mommy's boy," explains Irvine Welsh, sitting poolside at the Phoenix Hotel during a recent book tour. The Scottish author is describing the Jekyll and Hyde duality bonding and destroying the characters in his latest novel."One guy has a fear of engaging in the world, and the other guy has a fear of missing out. The psychopath versus the repressed — that is Scotland in a nutshell," he continues. Set mostly in Edinburgh, the latest story by the famed Trainspottingscribe contrasts and connects the lives of two health inspectors — the coke-snorting, skirt-chasing, alcoholic thug Danny Skinner and the teetotaling virgin Brian Kibby. Skinner sparks a rivalry with Kibby that takes on supernatural proportions, giving new meaning to the idea of getting under a scapegoat's skin.

Although the story line follows various tangents — fatherless men filling voids, loathsome chefs and insta-celebrity status, and the extremities of modern sexuality — the most interesting moments come when Skinner attempts to understand his addictions, a space of serious contemplation few Welsh characters ponder with this degree of depth. San Francisco becomes a destination in which Skinner can dry out, face his inner ugliness (when Welsh used to live in the Mission District he noticed how relatively healthy people are here), and discover what a working liver and love life feel like. Although the majority of Bedroom Secrets is straight bullying — a treatise on the paralyzing nature of hatred that also exploits violence in this writer's typical way — Welsh's exploration of human nature's crass patterns shines, even underneath the blood and bruises.

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