The Backstreets of Purgatory

By Helen Taylor

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Caravaggio in Glasgow: A Tale of Art, Insanity and Irn Bru

Publication date: Summer 2018
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About the book

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?

Wouldn’t it?

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