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Showing posts with label Clive Driscoll In Pursuit of the Truth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clive Driscoll In Pursuit of the Truth. Show all posts

Thursday 19 July 2018

Review: Shaun Greenhalgh, A Forger's Tale

This is a very interesting book, and not just as a work about the craft knowledge of a very successful forger.

First, it is interesting as narrative because the text is written by an unreliable narrator, rather like Clive Driscoll’s In Pursuit of the Truth (reviewed here on 13 September 2015). I say this not because  of the self-justificatory theme which runs through the book, but because some of the stories told provoke (in me) the reaction This is a wind up, a reaction consistent with the author’s own claim that there is personal satisfaction to be got from deceiving a self-satisfied art world. 

That connects to a second level of interest which attaches to the fact that the author is someone who could have become a successful member of the middle-class but rejects that as an aspiration and destination (perhaps only after the death of a much-loved, more highly educated girlfriend) staying close to his roots both literally – he lives with his mum and dad - and metaphorically. Like Clive Driscoll, the prose style is intended to remind you constantly of this rejection. It sits uneasily with the fact that the author was clearly a youthful prodigy with an extraordinary memory and extraordinary practical abilities, focussed around an interest in serious art which has been life-long. The prodigiousness has something in common with that which one associates with autism or what in the past were called idiots savants. With or without such associations, the extraordinary ability is something to be admired.

Then there is the craft knowledge of a forger, spelled out over many pages and showing an extraordinary breadth and depth. In my own line of business as a stamp dealer, we encounter forgeries but nearly all of them are not only bad but often display childish ignorance – an envelope with an 1890 postmark but the address written in biro, and such like. Greenhalgh is in another league, not really replicated in the stamp world since the 19th century days of Fournier and Spiro.

Finally, there is an interest for the philosophy of art, not only in relation to the standard question about the possibility of the perfect forgery. More importantly, the author rightly emphasises that in the visual arts, artists always work with materials and that those materials are of importance and interest in their own right, as are the craft ways in which they are worked. We tend to look for an artist’s overall vision, but it is always expressed through the very knowledgeable working of very specific materials.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Review: Clive Driscoll, In Pursuit of the Truth

I usually have a fairly straightforward response to a book; to this one, I don’t

London’s Metropolitan Police has a reputation for idleness, incompetence and corruption. And that’s just the official view from numerous enquiries and investigations into its conduct. I would add servility to the list. The Met. has never stood up to its political masters who, it seems, will tolerate the Met’s shortcomings so long as it jumps when told to Jump! Only recently, the Leader of the House of Lords Baroness d’Souza reported her deputy, Lord Sewal, to the Met. for possession of class A drugs: the evidence provided by newspapers photographs of him snorting what he obviously believed to be cocaine. The Met. were on the case very quickly and obliged the Baroness by breaking down the door to Lord Sewal’s flat, an event duly publicised in those same newspapers. Now had I phoned the Met. and reported a neighbour who I suspected of snorting coke, I think it would have been seen as a case of wasting police time. London, after all, is the cocaine capital of Europe (that’s official too). Busting Lord Sewal was a complete waste of police time –  it may have  ticked the box, We acted on the Information, but it was done to oblige. It's forelock tugging.

The Met. is a traditionally working class organisation and Clive Driscoll presents himself as just an ordinary London boy from a difficult background who, despite dyslexia, has pulled himself up by his own bootstraps into a 35 year career with the Met. The style of the book is aggressively uneducated. I don’t know if this is Clive Driscoll alone or as he has been crafted by a ghost writer. The effect is sometimes comic and sometimes toe-curling. I think it is a main reason why I sometimes felt, This is an Unreliable Narrator. (But the low point comes when Mr Driscoll, who aims quite a few appropriate shafts at Roman Catholic church officials - spiced with reports of coded hand signals they use between themselves - then tells you that he himself is a  … Freemason. That had me in stitches.)

You cannot be a Comic Cuts Dixon of Dock Green Copper and at the same time successfully take on some very difficult investigations and secure convictions. That is where the style of the narration clashes all the time with the stories it narrates.

DCI Driscoll’s lasting claim to fame and gratitude arises from the fact that he took on the “Cold Case” Stephen Lawrence murder (which dated back to 1993), secured the confidence of the murdered boy’s parents – who provide Prefaces to this book - and others who had been bitterly disillusioned by the mishandling of the case, and eventually secured two convictions in 2012.

Things went wrong on the Lawrence case very early on: one of the suspects was the son of a well-known criminal who just happened to have a working relationship with the policeman put in charge of the murder investigation and who saw to it that the investigation went nowhere, despite information and evidence all over the place. Exceptionally bad luck? No, not completely untypical of the Met. 

All this and a lot more is on the record. So too is the fact that having secured the convictions, the Met. responded to Driscoll’s success not with congratulations but by pushing him into compulsory retirement – hence this book which though it never presents itself as such is also his revenge.

All these negative things said, there are stories told here which are entirely credible, greatly to Mr Driscoll’s credit, and often enough are stark reminders of what life in an “Inner City” is like for many of its inhabitants. Some of the things narrated here deserve further scrutiny, since the UK’s laws of libel have often enough prevented the naming of names. Mr Driscoll’s book is at its most frustrating when he points his finger upwards to the “high ups” in the Met.