A FORGER’S TALE – Shaun Greenhalgh. Non-Fiction

Britain’s master forger describes his life as a dedicated Art Lover and his 30+ year career as a versatile forger until 2007, when he was jailed for four years; a development he accepted with equanimity.

I marveled at SG’s dedication to museum and art gallery research, years of learning, acquiring different skills, his work ethic, (yes ,e had one; he was productive! ) Despite working in a garden shed – a shed! mark you, in his parents’ back garden – SG mastered metalwork, woodcarving, pottery & ceramics, drawing, water colour painting , he was a one-man Renaissance in modern Britain, working away in that little shed.

The part I enjoyed most were his stories of his rough and tumble boyhood and early teens in the 1960’s in the working class area of Bolton, near Manchester. In amongst the crazy boyhood adventures, he was starting on his lifetime career as a brilliant faker. At the age of 11 he was making fake Victorian ceramic pot lids, with a teeny little kiln (in the famous shed, of course) passing them off as finds from digging through city rubbish tips; selling them to dealers who sold their stock at markets and fares. Can you credit it?

I found the chapters dealing with his arrest and trial less interesting, ditto the long detailed sections on the art techniques he researched, learned and mastered in the course of his career. I would have liked more info about his life post-prison. You have to ask yourself: what does a world class art forger do for the rest of his life once released from jail? If he sketches so much as a Christmas card for his Nan, the cops will be on to him.

Apparently his dear old Mum and Dad were part of the Family Forging business, dealing with enquiries and sales, whilst sonny boy was beavering away busily in the aforesaid shed. A brother took care of the finances. The family lived a modest lifestyle, in a council house, no flashing their cash and if SG is to be believed, he didn’t do it for the money but for the satisfaction of cocking a snook at the world’s art dealers and experts.

Maybe so. Who knows what motivates human beings? I enjoyed the book, but felt I was being offered a carefully curated version of SG’s brilliant career. If ever there was truth in the saying Truth is Stranger than Fiction, this book is the proof. If, of course, we can believe the contents of the book.

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