Geeking Out on Research

Authors have different avenues for research depending on the topic. I write contemporary fiction, and my preference is to interview professionals currently working in museum security or operations. But an internet search is called for if you have a specific question. Say, how far is the Vatican City Heliport from the Sistine Chapel? Is it walkable for your character? Probably, since it’s less than a mile. To feel grounded and confident in tackling a topic as nuanced as art and art crime, there’s nothing like books and articles by academics. Here’s a partial list of books I’ve used for my art thriller trilogy.

For The Collector, I needed to know more about museum security, vandalism of art, and the peculiarities of collectors of fine art.

Stealing The Show, by John Barelli with Zachary Schisgal. Mr. Barelli was Chief Security Officer of the Met from 2001-2016.

Priceless: How I Went Undercover To Rescue The World’s Stolen Treasures, by Robert K Wittman, founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

Keeping The Marbles: How the Treasures of The Past Ended Up In Museums And Why They Should Stay There, by Tiffany Jenkins. This book is very controversial, which is gold for authors.

In book two, The Canvas, I needed to learn more about forgers. Who are they? Are they the scamps that want to stick it to the man? Hardly.

A Forger’s Tale: Confessions of the Bolton Forger, by Shaun Greenhalgh.

The Art of Forgery: The Minds Motives and Methods Of Master Forgers, by Noah Charney.

The Most Powerful Woman in The Room Is You, by (auctioneer) Lydia Fenet.

In The Canvas, we learn the antagonist – who is like a Moriarty figure – claims to be the heir to the Medici family. Emma reminds him that there are no Medici heirs, only descendants – doesn’t matter to him.

In book three, Emma and the Medici have their final showdown. I knew that after a 16th century family patriarch, Duke Cosimo I, died, the wheels came off. Two young women in the family perished under very mysterious circumstances, which is a roundabout way of saying they were murdered. Daughter-in-law Eleonora di Garzia di Alvarez di Toledo was the first and it’s believed her husband, Pietro, one of Cosimo’s sons, killed her. On July 17, a daughter, Isabella de’ Medici died. My money is on her uncle as her murderer. The two deaths happened within days of one another. Had evil been passed down in the family’s DNA?

So far, I’ve used these books in my research:

Isabella de’Medici: The Glorious Life and Tragic End of A Renaissance Princess, by Caroline P. Murphy.

Who Owns Antiquity? Museums And the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage, By James Cuno. When I was studying for my post-graduate certification in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime, we used several of his landmark studies.

Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection After the Iraq War, is a compilation of papers about the failure to prevent massive looting from the country’s many archaeological sites.

These are just a few of the books that I’ve relied on for research to give the reader the best experience possible. And isn’t that why we do what we do?

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  1. I love books where the real aspects teach me things. Like you, Lane, research is one of my favorite parts of writing ~

  2. I love research too. When I wrote my story about Anne Boleyn, I was in absolute heaven. One of my favorites was by Susan Bordo: The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen. She wrote about how differently Anne Boleyn was regarded throughout the centuries. Fascinating how our understanding of bold women has changed.

  3. I LOVE geeking out on research! So many rabbit holes to happily toss myself into. But yeah, as you said, sometimes too much. Entire days gone with no writing done, just fact-gobbling. Sigh.

  4. I’m thinking about researching the immigration from Italy in the early 1900s and also women pilots at the same time, when people were just starting to fly. Tell me how you find your sources. Google?

  5. research is the best part of writing sometimes. You learn something new and you’re not actually writing while still having the satisfaction of ‘working on your opus’. A win/win

  6. Thanks, Lane! I, too, geek out on research. So much so that I have to remind myself that only about 2% of what I learn will find a place in the book. My method is simple: in the first draft, everything goes in; in the final draft, everything but the absolute essentials comes out.

  7. Research is fun. When I had my content writing business, I loved it because I always had to research stuff. Health conditions, law. Products, technology, law…always something depending on the client and the topic.

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