Thursday, October 13, 2011

Want to Read a Thriller? Try a Nonfiction Book on Art Theft

by Gigi Pandian

My fascination with the world of art theft didn't begin the day in 1998 when I was trapped in the Louvre with an art thief.

But the experience definitely solidified my interest.

How could thieves escape in broad daylight from a world-famous museum with a painting by French Impressionist Camille Corot?

When I set out to write a mystery novel, I knew I wanted to involve art theft in some way. But aside from my afternoon spent trapped in the Louvre and a few mystery novels I'd read that featured dashing art thieves, I didn't know anything about the real world of art theft. Since I love research, this wasn't a problem. I started reading up on the subject.

The problem? It turns out nonfiction art theft books are fascinating. I couldn't stop reading.

I ordered books written by FBI agents and journalists. When I realized how many books I was buying, I checked out books from the library. I followed art theft blogs. I interviewed museum curators. The stories of real life con men and the people on their trail were more fascinating than just about any fiction I'd seen.

I knew I needed to stop my research and get writing. But how? There were so many more books that would give me insight... It's all too easy to get bogged down in research, especially when one's research reads like a thriller, which is why I need tricks to get myself back on track.

The collective pressure of NaNoWriMo, coming up in a few weeks, is the trick that works for me. There's a time and a place for research, and National Novel Writing Month is not that time. I'm doing research on a different topic this month, but come November 1, it's time to write.

The subject of my mystery series evolved from art to treasure, but the crux of the issue is the same. The world is full of objects of such beauty, and thieves come up with ways to steal, smuggle, or forge their way to them. There are endless scenarios in both real life and in fiction.

9 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

wow, *trapped in the louvre*???? um, i've been trapped in a suburban house with two kids with chicken pox....trapped on a date in a strip mall starbucks... obviously i am doing something wrong!

Rachael Herron said...

I love this. Also, you've inspired me to start daydreaming about NaNo.....

Daisy said...

I've had that "Priceless" book sitting on my shelf for months now-- thanks for the reminder that I need to get to reading it.

Juliet Blackwell said...

This is one of my favorite stories! Wish *I* had been trapped in the Louvre with an art thief! The fun of this sort of research is precisely what motivated me to write my first book, Feint of Art, all about art theft and forgery. Too much fun!

Gigi Pandian said...

Daisy, you're in for a treat when you get to reading Priceless.

Sophie and Juliet, the shame of it all is that at 22 years old, I was too damn young to appreciate just how cool a situation I was in. I had fun with it, sure, but now I've got so many more questions about that day...

Rachael, NaNo really crept up on me this year!

Mysti said...

Maybe GIGI WAS THE THIEF?! Nah, that couldn't be, could it?

There's a quote, "When you take something, then you have to keep it." It's that delicious unraveling that I love in these scenarios. Looking forward to reading yours!!!!!

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