BOOKS: Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain: Charles Leerhsen

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Dec. 24—Though Charles Leerhsen titles his biography, "Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain," the book is really about Bourdain's suicide in June 2018.

The book opens with the loss of the famed traveler then spends most of its nearly 300 pages trying to answer why Bourdain died.

Most fans were stunned by the news of his death and even more so by the cause. Bourdain got rich traveling the world, eating incredible (though often gruesome) foods, writing books and narration and starring in critically acclaimed and popular television shows. He had a job many people think they would love to have.

So, why?

Leerhsen reminds readers that Bourdain did not hit this successful stride until in his 40s.

He was raised in a middle-class family with certain pretensions about art, travel, food, books, movies, often living beyond their means.

Bourdain became a mid-level chef. He became a novelist with a small degree of success. He married his childhood sweetheart and was with her for decades. He became a drug addict.

Together, the experiences, skills and contacts made in his professional life led to the publication of a New Yorker article about the behind-the-scenes world of New York restaurants.

The success of the article led to the bestselling book, "Kitchen Confidential," and other books which led to the mega-successful travel/food shows on the Food Channel, the Travel Channel and CNN.

In his personal life, Bourdain divorced his first wife, married a second wife with whom he had a child then fell in love with an Italian actress/director/artist/activist. He fell for her hard. and like many reports on Bourdain's last days, Leerhsen looks at Bourdain's obsession with her combined with the fatigue of constant travel for years as part of his demise.

"Down and Out in Paradise" is not an easy book for Bourdain fans. and Bourdain does not come across as the cool, easy-going person whom many fans may have wished he was.

Readers looking for stories from his travels should look elsewhere.

However, the book is an interesting look at a multi-faceted person.

There is an old saying — to lead a fulfilling life, simple people should live a complex life and complex people should live a simple life.

Bourdain seems to have been a complex soul who lived a complex life.