For wont to do, Remy began reading the press. It was an older edition with no mention of Maggie’s murder. Instead, the lead article reported on rural crime. Farm equipment was being stolen at unprecedented levels, turning up on Internet auction sites. Farmers were demanding greater police support to fight organized criminals who roamed the land. The next article recounted the theft of books from rural libraries and churches across Italy. Remy groaned. She was familiar with the theft and sale of cultural legacies given her past museum work. Tombs were still looted by poachers, ruins were broken for architectural pieces, and holy sites were demolished by invading armies. In this case, a library director had been caught stealing handwritten, centuries-old manuscripts. Those caught within the smuggling chain were facing trial, but Interpol was still working with police to find a collector dubbed The Astronomer. The name grabbed Remy’s interest. The black-market buyer was suspected of collecting tomes written by the founders of astronomy. Such books would cost a king’s ransom, Remy mused, knowing she would research this mysterious collector when she got back home.
-- 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. 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 you can 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 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.