Art & The Astronomer
For want to do, Remy grabbed one of the dated newspapers. The torn sheet featured rural crime stories. One detailed the increasing loss of farm equipment. Farmers demanded police support to stop outbuilding raids by gangs, their stolen machinery popping up on internet auction sales. The next entry recounted the theft of hand-carved panels from a remote Scottish kirk. Remy sighed. Her mother had spoken of looting from archeological digs. Cultural legacies disappearing overnight. Ruins smashed for architectural pieces. Yes, the bucolic countryside was tarnished with illegal activities. The last article reported on the theft of centuries-old manuscripts from Italian libraries. Multiple librarians were caught in the smuggling chain. Priceless tomes, she mused, cultural treasures stolen by curators—an enemy from within. Interpol was searching for a buyer dubbed “The Astronomer” who collected 15th and 16th century books written by the founders of astronomy. Disgusted by the selfish greed, she tossed aside the print.
- Excerpt from The Stars Prevail
That, in a nutshell, is what prompted my mystery, The Stars Prevail. I’ve always been fascinated by art fraud and theft from museums, private collections, and galleries. Any time an article reports another theft, I ponder the crime, the planning involved, the timing required, and the ultimate buyer. The intrigue 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 without any preset connections to a buyer or a viable plan to sell the piece. When thieves realize they cannot sell the known art 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 sometimes 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 TedTalks 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 (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 Remy Lane Mystery series.
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book in the Barrington Bay series as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More' for in-depth posts.