THE BEDROOM SECRETS OF THE MASTER CHEFS a novel by Irvine Welsh (2006)
Irvine Welsh is destined to be forever introduced as ‘the author of Trainspotting’.
He has been fairly prolific since he burst on the literary scene so memorably in 1993 but none of his novels or short story collections have captured the public imagination like his audacious and inspired debut.
To date his career mirrors that of Orson Welles in that he started at the top and has been steadily working his way downhill ever since.
‘The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs’ is his sixth full length novel and ,confusingly, neither of its main two characters are chefs. Danny Skinner and Brian Kibby are both twenty something employees of Edinburgh’s Environmental Health Department and thus responsible for ensuring that correct hygiene standards of the city’s restaurants are maintained.
The title is the same as a book within a book by an unsavoury celebrity chef named Alan De Fretais, a work that Skinner unreservedly judges “the biggest pile of bullshit imaginable”. His harsh judgement Is supported by the brief extracts we are presented with. One of these reads: “I have long held the belief that the only pleasure to rival making love is the eating of good food. The twin arenas of the true sensualist must, by extension, be the bedroom and the kitchen, and such a person must strive to be a master of both environments”.
You might expect from this that Welsh would play more on this food-sex equation but he is more preoccupied with booze (or in the Scottish vernacular ‘peeve’) and bonking.
Drawing together these twin themes, Skinner notes that “being off the peeve makes you much better at shagging” but this insight doesn’t convert him a life of sobriety. While Skinner pursues an insatiable quest for erotic enlightenment, bars always seem to get in the way.
With the exception of brief excursions to Ibiza and San Francisco the novel’s key events are set in the “cold”, “dark” city of Edinburgh where Skinner finds “perfect conditions for hours of self-destructive heavy drinking”. Continue reading