Still with no customers, Remy moved on to the final article in the column. It was a filler piece about the theft of books from an Italian library. A library director had been accused of stealing centuries-old manuscripts penned by the likes of Aristotle, Galileo, and Descartes. Remy leaned against the good butcher’s counter and recalled the time when she had contributed research work on an art theft case. She had been astonished to discover that robberies were often committed by crime syndicates that used stolen works as collateral for the purchase of drugs or weapons. How many arms will these books bring into organized crime? she wondered. What cruel irony that objects of fine beauty and high intelligence would be used to bargain for objects of death and destruction.
-- Excerpt from The Stars Prevail
That, in a nutshell, is what prompted the entire murder mystery, The Stars Prevail. I’ve always been fascinated by art fraud and theft from museums, private collections, and galleries. Any time an article would appear about another amazing theft, I would pause to ponder the crime, the thieves, and the sale of the stolen work. The planning involved, the timing required, the ultimate collector, and the intrigue of it all is gripping. Of course, I grew up with the foolish vision of a suave, erudite cat burglar as portrayed by Cary Grant in the 1955 film To Catch a Thief. The truth of art theft is far from that romantic notion. Over time I learned that, in most cases, an opportunistic thief will simply seize a piece of valuable art and make a mad dash away with the priceless piece without any preset connections to a buyer or a viable plan to sell the piece. When most thieves realize they cannot sell the known artwork on the open market, they either try to ransom it, turn to the black market, or destroy the evidence. (By the way, black market buyers tend to kill the perpetrators, so yeah—crime doesn’t pay.) For a superb read on the topic, I suggest The Art Thief by Noah Charney, or listen to this brilliant man in his fascinating dialog about art fraud and theft:
My curiosity was further catapulted when I stumbled across a news article about a library director stealing original manuscripts from the Girolamini Library in Naples, Italy and selling the ancient tomes through the underground economy. Until that moment, I had never considered books as a form of collectable art. A short while later, I read of Scotland Yard’s hunt for The Astronomer—yes, that black market buyer really does exist. I knew there had to be a great story caught between those two articles. A few days later, I opened my laptop and began writing the first book in the Barrington Bay series. I used my lead character, Remy Lane, as a voice to increase my readers' awareness of the horrid use of stolen art and antiquities to support militant groups and organized crime. For more information on the theft and sale of cultural antiquities, take a look at culture crime news.
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More', leave a comment, and share!