“Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh’s latest book is another tale of vicious characters made worse by alcohol and drugs but the bad boy of Scottish literature says his own wild days are over.
It’s been more than a decade since he touched heroin, Welsh says, and these days the dread of an impending hangover tends to keep him from indulging too much in other intoxicants.
“You just get to the point where you see the hangover,” he told Reuters while sipping green tea at a Manhattan hotel.
“You think, ’Well, I’ll have a pull, I’ll have a line of coke, I’ll have a couple of beers.’ Then you think, ’I don’t really want to, I’m going to feel crap.”’
Dodging a hangover is the theme of his new book, “The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs,” published in the United States this month.
It is the story of Danny Skinner, a womanizing Edinburgh City Council restaurant inspector in his early 20s with a drinking problem and an irrational hatred of his new colleague, a shy model-railway enthusiast named Brian Kibby.
Somewhat to his own surprise, Skinner manages to impose a curse on Kibby, a teetotaler “Star Trek” fan who lives with his parents, who then suffers the hangovers and physical injuries incurred by Skinner in drinking bouts, a brawl with soccer hooligans and even a drug-fueled male rape.
“I always had a fantasy years ago that I’d love to give somebody my hangover,” Welsh said, adding that the idea crystallized when he re-read Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” in which the unscrupulous hero remains eternally young while a portrait in his attic grows old and corrupt.
“There’s so many writers who write about good and virtuous characters because I think they want the world to perceive them in that kind of way -- it’s like a James Bond syndrome,” Welsh said, adding that he doesn’t care how people see him.
“You’re trying to get in touch with different versions of yourself that you’ve suppressed in becoming the person that you are,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons people write -- to get in touch with the other people they could have been.”
Reviews of the new book have been mixed -- The New York Times said it was “extraordinarily bad,” “fails at every imaginable level” and was packed with “teeming cliches” -- but Welsh said he had stopped reading reviews.
“I get people saying, ’He’d be a better writer if he just stopped writing about drugs and the underclass,”’ Welsh said.
“They never said Evelyn Waugh would be a better writer if he stopped writing about public school boys,” he said, citing Waugh, the author of “Brideshead Revisited” and “Men at Arms,” as one of his major influences.
Welsh, 45, has two more books in the works over the next two years and also is planning to direct a movie next year.
For a man who has created some of the most vile characters in modern literature, he is surprisingly mellow.
“I have been a bit uptight and burned up and obnoxious in the past,” he said. “My personal life is not as much in disarray as it was three or four years back. That does make a difference.”
While his name will always be associated with heroin, the drug at the center of his book “Trainspotting” and the movie it inspired, Welsh said he had barely used it since he went into rehab in his early 20s.
“I tried it again I think in ’95 just to see how I would react to it and it was just terrible,” he said. “It’s like every single bad come-down that I’ve had came back to me.”