Caravaggio in Glasgow: A Tale of Art, Insanity and Irn Bru
So, if you asked him, Finn Garvie would say his life was one spectacular fuck-up. In a makeshift studio in a church hall in the backstreets of Glasgow, he’s fannying around, failing to paint his degree portfolio, getting majorly stressed out and generally pissed off. His girlfriend Lizzi treats him like one of her psychology patients and his best mate Rob (who owns the tattoo parlour up the road) is under the impression tats count as art. All of which would be aggravating in itself but, to top it, Finn is certain—as in one-hundred-percent-absolutely-fucking-convinced—that some stinking bastard is hanging around, spying on him, laughing at his cock-ups and eating his left-over curry.
Fortunately, Finn has plenty of techniques to distract him from his woes. For a start, he’s tackling the church hall renovations with the dubious assistance of his alcoholic, diabetic next-door-neighbour Maurice, and having the odd entertaining run-in with recovering heroin addict Tuesday McLaughlin (who gets her tattoos from Rob and her methadone from the pharmacy across the road). And besides, when he’s bored, Finn always has his book on Caravaggio, his all-time artistic hero and (according to his wee Italian granny) several-generations-removed ancestor.
A few streets away lives the breathtaking but stroppy au-pair Kassia. One day when Finn is doing his usual (ie mooching round the church garden chain-smoking roll-ups) he spots Kassia on her way to church. For Finn, it is a Vision (with a capital letter). A Revelation. This is what he was born for. He will paint her and it will be his masterpiece.
Trouble is, the way things are going, even Finn doesn’t think he is up to the challenge and he’s not usually one for self-doubt. From then on, whenever he glimpses Kassia (and he does quite a lot of glimpsing), his torment only increases. Things take a turn for the better when he finally encounters the person who has been lurking around bugging him, it is none other than Caravaggio himself. Overcome with fandom, Finn dismisses the improbability of the situation, the bloke’s manky attire, his repellent manners and taste for coconut creams, and revels in an acute dose of hero-worship. Plus, who knows, maybe Caravaggio might help him with his masterpiece.
But however much Finn wants this manky bastard to be Caravaggio, he knows his history. Knows all the question marks over the events surrounding the artist’s death. Knows every one of the conspiracy theories and is acutely aware that it would have to have been some stupendously major conspiracy for the bloke to still be alive after four hundred years.
Not to mention living in Glasgow.
It would, wouldn’t it?
‘See you after, Finjay,’ Maurice called from the corridor. ‘Salutations to you and your lassie. Merry Crimbo and all that business.’ The greeting provoked a spike of anxiety in Finn, a flicker of extra worry, because he realised he couldn’t quite remember what arrangements he’d made with Lizzi for the day.
‘Aye, mate. Have a good one,’ he shouted back, listening to Maurice limp away, the uneven click of his soles across the floorboards, the slam of the corridor door. Finally, the last drops of coffee splashed into the glass jug and Finn’s blood pressure settled in anticipation. He poured himself a mugful and, before he nipped outside for a fag, went to grab his phone from the studio.
There was no signal in the vaults of the building. Thoughts of Lizzi wafted among the cobwebs as Finn drifted along the darkened corridor, unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, coffee cup in one hand, the other attempting to resuscitate his dying phone. Lizzi was spending Christmas with Jed and Rob, going to Jed’s for dinner once he’d finished his priestly duties. It would be the first for years where she hadn’t had an M&S meal for one in front of a bad film while her dad partied in a Santa hat and combat shorts between drilling shifts in the middle of the South Pacific. And she was ludicrously grateful to Finn for arranging it. To be honest, his entire contribution to the plan had amounted to agreeing when Rob made the suggestion (a suggestion which had caused him a moment or two of disquiet, he had to admit) although he was, of course, more than willing to accept the credit.
The light from the phone screen made no impact in the dark corridor. Resigned to losing his recently but deceitfully acquired brownie points, Finn slipped the phone into his back pocket, planning to phone Lizzi as soon as he got outside, and reached for the door to the main hall.
His hand flailed uselessly in the void.
Amazing or average? What do you think?
Thursday, 16 August 2018
The Backstreets of Purgatory has been out in the real world for a month or so now, and the reviews are coming in. Here's a selection of comments from book bloggers and readers who have reviewed it. Of course, if you are reading this on a phone, you won't have a hope of seeing the comments properly. But let me tell you, they are pretty darn good. Words like 'outstanding', 'audacious', 'original', …
Caravaggio and Tunnocks teacakes
Thursday, 5 July 2018
The last few days have been brilliant. I've had loads of excited messages from people who have received their copies of Backstreets. Some of you have even read it!! (Or at least as far as the end of chapter 4 and felt it necessary to comment. You'll know why when you get that far). And there have been some fab photos posted on Facebook and elsewhere of the book out in the real world. For those of…
Signed, sealed and very soon to be delivered
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Last week, almost two years to the day that I first visited Unbound headquarters to make the promo video for The Backstreets of Purgatory, I was back to sign copies of the special editions. It has been a long process but, for me, it has definitely been worth the wait. I hope you guys feel the same when your books finally arrive in the next week or so (if they haven't already).
I wrote a book. Did I tell you?
Thursday, 24 May 2018
Two large boxes arrived in the post at my house this week. It may not sound like much but the fact they arrived at all could considered to be a miracle of sorts. Half our post goes missing and I have spent many a frustrated hour at the main branch nearby faced with a blank stare and a 'pas possible' when I've offered to search the parcel room myself for my stuff. Plus, Monday was a holiday here but…
Monday, 14 May 2018
For those of you who thought all this was an elaborate hoax, a mere fantasy borne of my fevered imagination, I am sorry to disappoint you. I have amazoned* The Backstreets of Purgatory AND IT EXISTS.
*googled on Amazon
(It is true that to find it, you have to run the gauntlet of The Backstreet Boys but maybe that's your thing. In which case, this is for you.)
But it isn't only in…
Off to the Printers
Monday, 23 April 2018
Whoop whoop whoop. Just heard the news. The Backstreets of Purgatory is off to the printers today. We don't know yet when it will be back and in the warehouse ready for distribution but it won't be long now.
Your wait is almost over. I can't thank you guys enough for how patient you have been. I'm sure most books that appear in bookshops have been in gestation for a long time but because Unbound…
Top 5 comedy supermarket fish
Monday, 12 March 2018
My dear, lovely, patient supporters,
It is more than a year since Backstreets reached full funding. I sincerely hope none of you have been holding your breath while you wait for the book to appear. The responsibility is hard enough without having asphyxiated subscribers on my conscience. In lieu of any particular news about progress (proofs are done, artwork is done, trade date July 12th as far…
Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Or even, how long?
How long does it take to write a novel and get it published?
Daft question, I know. String, piece of, etc but I'm thinking maybe you guys might be asking a similar question. After all, some of you pledged your cash way back in July 2016. So while I can't answer for everyone else who has ever written a novel, I can answer for myself.
You: Helen, how long did it take to…
5 USES FOR A 500 PAGE HARDBACK
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
The first proofs for The Backstreets of Purgatory have arrived. The only parts that are missing for the moment are the acknowledgements and the list of supporters. Which means that new supporters can still get their name listed up until 27th November 2017. After that it will still be possible to order the book but you won’t be listed as a supporter. However, if you are reading this, the chances are…
Friday, 6 October 2017
Hello you gorgeous people.
It has been some time since my last update. TBH, I can’t get used to calling them that. For those of you who haven’t been here before (in which case, welcome and thank you so much for your generosity), this spot used to be called ‘The Shed’ and my posts ‘Shed posts’. If you are a newcomer, fortunately for you, you’ve missed some of the worst puns on the word SHED that…
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Have I been time travelling? I can’t believe where the months have gone. It is just over a year ago already since we launched The Backstreets of Purgatory on Unbound. For those of you who pledged right at the beginning, it probably feels like an eternity. But for me, it has whizzed by in a blur of crowdfunding, events, setting up my new blog, and most recently, editing.
Plotter or pantster?
Thursday, 8 June 2017
‘Are you a plotter or a pantster?’, asked the lovely Tabatha Stirling at our recent Unbound event in Edinburgh. We were talking writing styles. A plotter is pretty much self evident. A writer who has the story plotted out before they start. But what, you may ask, is a pantster? It is, as Tabs explained, someone who flies by the seat of their pants.
Here are some (almost) flying pants.…
Did It Collapse or Was It DemoliSHED?
Tuesday, 4 April 2017
The Shed is no more. DemoliSHED perhaps. Although I’m sure you guys aren’t complaining. You probably WiSHED its demise had come a bit sooner. But I’m gutted. My plan has been KiboSHED. I had still to use my two best (best as in ‘least contrived’) puns (FiniSHED and PubliSHED), not to mention SkirmiSHED, BrandiSHED and SlaSHED (which given…
RuSHED this one out to say thank you
Friday, 3 March 2017
You may not have guessed from the quality of my shed posts but I do normally give them a fair bit of thought. The content, the pictures. Even the titles, if you can believe it.
And while this one differs because it is rushed out with fewer bad jokes than you are accustomed to (have become inured to, perhaps), it is definitely my most heartfelt. Thanks to all you amazing supporters, I’ve reached…
Monday, 20 February 2017
Jelly Wobble or Crowdfunding Wobble? Image by Thomas Brueckner
Go on then, I’ll admit it. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been suffering from a wobble. A crowdfunding wobble. Look it up. It’s an officially recognised condition. You’ll find it in Section F4 (neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders) in Chapter V of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). It…
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Bacchus: the Roman god of wine and all things grape-related, of unrestrained consumption and the ritual madness that accompanies it
PiSHED? No, not me. At least not since drinking a cocktail of Bacardi, Sprite and green food colouring in a hot tub under the moonlight in a garden somewhere in the west of Scotland while my friend tried to convince me the concoction was a mojito. Don’t say a word…
The RelinquiSHED Part 2
Friday, 16 December 2016
Given how long it took me to make the last ReliquiSHED Backstreets Production in August, I’ll spare you the video chat this time and plunge straight in to introduce you to the second crop of characters who didn’t make the final cut of Backstreets. I’m racked with guilt, by the way, especially as my current hashtag should be #amnotwriting. It is impossible to concentrate on other characters when Finn…
Tuesday, 6 December 2016
As I still haven’t thought of an appropriate shed pun for the answers to my Caravaggio multiple choice, this week I’ve decided to include a short extract from chapter 13 of Backstreets, purely as an excuse for using an overly dramatic shed post title. Before we get to that though, I want to say welcome to my new supporters and a massive thank you for your generosity. I'd love to be…
She SmaSHED it
Friday, 25 November 2016
My sister, that is. Fortunately when we’d been stuck on the train earlier in the day I’d had the foresight to show her the evening’s extracts. By that time, I was already croaking. Two reading gigs down, overexcitement and a viral lurgy with an irritating cough that was…how shall I put it…irritating.
Earlier the previous week, as part of my Backstreets mini-tour of the UK, I’d played to a full…
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Yep, it’s true. I’ve got shed loads of supporters. Well over 250. Which if I’d written a book with, well, less words in it would mean that I would be funded by now. As it is, I wrote 130000 or so (had to quickly verify there that I hadn’t left my finger on the 0 for too long; 130 thousand is correct not 1 million three hundred thousand which might have been some kind of record but would have been…
UnwaSHED and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Monday, 24 October 2016
It isn’t true. Honestly. At least, not the unwashed bit. I simply couldn’t resist a David Bowie song title and a shed pun in the same sentence. The Somewhat Slightly Dazed part is a different kettle of poison. More or less my default position.
(For the heathens among you. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed; Track 2; Space Oddity. No official video or sound recording but lyrics can be found here…
An AccompliSHED performance
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
By one or two folk at least. Because, quite frankly, most of you were rubbish. Very few people correctly identified all the Caravaggio paintings in my devilishly hard quiz. The word on the street is that some of you were too chicken even to enter. It wasn’t really that hard, was it? Was it?
However, I am delighted to announce that not everyone was as easily deterred by a challenge as some of you…
SemifiniSHED (or 9 out of 10 people won't get a single answer in this competition correct)*
Tuesday, 4 October 2016
*this is a blatant click-bait lie
The Backstreets competition has almost reached its deadline. SemifiniSHED you might say. (Is it me, or are the shed puns deteriorating by the blog post?) But not quite. As they say (or maybe they don't): it ain't over til it's over. You have until the end of this week (9th October at midnight, no less) to test your knowledge of Caravaggio masterpieces. And all…
TO BE FLESHED OUT
Monday, 19 September 2016
I gave you the SHEDs UP and now here it is. Tah-dah. COMPETITION TIME!!
Your chance to win a Backstreets tour and a complimentary packet of Tunnocks Teacakes.
Very simple. All you have to do is to name the six Caravaggio masterpieces from which each of the sections below were cut and identify the odd one out.
Send the answers to my special Backstreets email…
A QUICK SHEDS UP
Friday, 16 September 2016
Whoah, the shed puns are getting worse. Sheds up? Heads up. Geddit? Okay, yeah, right. Could do better.
But let's not fret about the quality of the puns when the chance to win a Backstreets tour is on offer*. Yes, you could be the lucky person who joins me for a tour of the Backstreets of Partick and Glasgow’s West End with a stop for ice cream at the University Cafe and a pint at a salubrious…
I wasn't the only one who bluSHED
Thursday, 8 September 2016
Once the numbness had passed, it started throbbing like a tadger.
Try saying that in front of your mother-in-law without either burning up or giggling stupidly.
All of which I did Friday evening past at the Spoon Café in Glasgow. In the name of literature, of course. It was a supposed to be a reading event. Only, by the time I'd made it to the end of that sentence, I could barely read on…
The RelinquiSHED fight back
Friday, 12 August 2016
Have you ever wondered what happens to the characters that don't make the final draft of a novel? Who they were and what they did to deserve the slash of the red pen? Or whether they were simply innocent bystanders caught up in events unfolding, unravelling, unexisting, beyond their control?
Let me tell you, they are out there somewhere. In the same place as the text messages that get…
UndistinguiSHED (and otherwise generally rubbish) working titles
Monday, 1 August 2016
No cheating. Well, you can cheat as much as you like. You are only cheating yourself. See, I missed my calling as a school teacher. No, actually I didn't; I had a short stint subbing and was a disaster due to my inability to keep a straight face.
Science class. We’re doing respiration worksheets. We’ve been doing respiration worksheets for days. We’ve done aerobic…
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Honest, you've got to listen to this. It's genius (not mine).
I had this great idea. Get my pals to record lines of dialogue from Backstreets and make a mash-up for my vid. Which they did. And we did.
Thing is, I know every word of the 130 thousand words that make up Backstreets. I know who says what to who and why. I know where the characters are, who is in the room with them, what they had…
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
So who was he, this Caravaggio bloke? Well, there aren’t many traces of his early life but we know he was born in 1571 in the town Caravaggio in Lombardy, his real name was Michelangelo Merisi, and he was apprenticed as a young lad to Simone Peterzano, a mediocre fresco artist from Milan, although the evidence suggests young Mikey didn’t stick it out. By the time he was 21 he had moved to…
Sunday, 10 July 2016
Dear Purgatorial Personages,
Sorry to say, this whole Unbound business has unleashed (unlea-shed) a monster. Four whole years it took me to twit my first tweet and now (despite compelling advice against it) I cannot stop myself. There’s a certain freedom when no one is listening. Like talking to yourself. Like singing in the bath.
(Incidentally despite having recently refurbished my bathroom…
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
Dear Backstreet Boys…no, no, not that…Purgatory Peeps…yeah, that works,
Welcome to my shed. In my head it is very far removed from the mosquito-infested rot-ridden sad affair somewhere down the bottom of my garden, a place into which I rarely venture (mainly because the door is blocked by a rusting mower and the ghosts of various other small pieces of machinery and an inordinate number of paint…
These people are helping to fund The Backstreets of Purgatory.