Published By: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: 4th April 2017
Patrick Phelan is an ageing artist who has never made it big but who somehow manages to live on air in a North London suburb.
When not running art classes for amateurs, Patrick wrestles in the shed at the bottom of his garden with his life’s work: a series of visionary canvases of The Seven Seals.
When his wheeler-dealer son Marty turns up with a commission from a rich client for some copies of paintings by modern masters, Phelan reluctantly agrees; it means money for his ex-wife Moira. However the deal with Marty is, typically, not what it seems.
What follows is a complex chain of events involving fakery, fraud, kidnapping, murder, the Russian Mafia and a cast of dubious art world characters. A contemporary spin on Joyce Cary’s classic satire The Horse’s Mouth, The Horse’s Arse by Laura Gascoigne is a crime thriller-cum-comic-fable that poses the serious question: where does art go from here?
Purchase from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Horses-Arse-Laura-Gascoigne-ebook/dp/B01MUZXN8G/
Thanks to Rachel at Authoright and Clink Street for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. This is the first of three I#m writing for the Clink Street Spring Reads 2018 blog tour.
I really enjoyed this novel. It’s a love story between a copper and a journo, a tale of white collar crime, and an indictment of the falsity of the art world. With some Russian Mafiosi and rich Middle Easterners thrown in.
From The Shed in his back garden, Pat Phelan, a great, but completely unknown, artist, teaches art classes to make some money, but usually lives on air while working on his great masterpiece, ‘The Seven Seals’. With his eccentric lifestyle and mismatched clothing, Pat is an artist of the bohemian sort. And his neighbour, Ron, hates it.
Pat’s son, Martin, is a cocaine-snorting minor criminal – technically, an interior architect, but his roofs always leak and several former clients or their neighbours are suing him – who uses his father’s talent and paternal guilt to make money from the art world he floats around the edges of.
Danial Colvin is an art historian working as a junior journalist for a niche art magazine. He is working on his PhD thesis, on Sheddism – the place of the shed in art. During a routine assignment to a police art crime conference, he meets D.C. Yasmin Desai. Together they stumble on to a crime. Allotments are involved.
I love the way the story weaves between Pat, with his love of paint, colour and models, the machinations of the art world, and the developing relationship between Danial and Yasmin. All the characters come to life, with their foibles and humours. The plot moves at a good pace and is entertaining. The writing shows an expertise honed through years as a journalist.
4/5 – One of my favourites of 2018 to date
About the author: Currently living in Hampstead, North London, Laura Gascoigne has worked as an art journalist for over twenty years, editing Artists & Illustrators (1994-1999) before going freelance. Laura was born in Cairo in 1950, the daughter of a bookseller and an Italian teacher, and grew up in Brussels and Cambridge before studying Classics at Oxford University. Her sister is the writer Marina Warner. Surrounded as a child by the paintings her father collected, she has always had a passion for art and when not writing about it, she paints.