The Scottish provocateur best-known for his ebulliently racy novels (The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, 2007, etc.) is at it again, in a new collection of four stories and a short novel.
The Welsh we all know and tolerate is loudly displayed in the rambling title story, in which Scots expatriate Mickey Baker, who’s running a pub in the Canary Islands, preys on his well-endowed barmaid, dodges his vengeful ex-wife and frets over the frequent presences of two sinister Spaniards who appear to be planning a mob hit. The humor is engulfed in semi-intelligible Scots dialect, but Welsh’s admirers probably won’t mind. Elsewhere, three young Chicago women—self-described as Desperate Obsessive Girl Snobs (DOGS)—natter on about no-good men, while one of them obsesses over the Korean chef who lives upstairs—especially when her real dog disappears (“The DOGS of Lincoln Park”). Welsh channels Sunset Boulevard in the fitfully involving tale of a would-be screenwriter who discovers, while researching the life of a famed indie-film director, how much he has in common with the latter’s grotesque megalomaniac widow Yolanda (“Miss Arizona”). Also set in the United States, “Rattlesnakes” is really only an extended dirty joke detailing the sexual misunderstandings and violence that ensue after one of the title reptiles bites a stoned male festival-goer you-know-where, requiring that the poison be sucked out from…well, you-know-where. It’s awful, even by Welsh’s ever-diminishing standards. Somewhat better, because it’s set in a world Welsh knows intimately, is the novella Kingdom of Fife, about unemployed DJ Jason King’s farcical pursuit of nubile equestriennes, his R-rated fulminations amusingly counterpointed by the urbane ravings of Jason’s irascible dad, a lifelong socialist who loves “gangsta” rap. Much more of this would have been far better than any of the briefer stories.
Jane Austen might have laughed at Welsh behind her parasol, but wouldn’t have let him into the parlor. Readers who are getting tired of the same old shite may likewise be getting ready to show him the door.