Monday, October 31, 2016

An Extract From my Next Art Mystery.

The Hero meets the Girl - for the second time.....

I'm on my way to Paris in the Eurostar.
Some time ago Interpol put up on their web-site a list of stolen paintings and works of art. Now they've decided to organise a travelling exhibition of replicas or digital photographs of 'recently stolen paintings', an exhibition which has just started in a room at the Louvre. Somebody in Interpol must have thought that there would be more chance of locating these paintings if more people saw them. I thought I'd take a look. When I'd finally negotiated all the Japanese students and elderly tourists in the lobby, and queued to buy my ticket, I walked up the stairs and into the exhibition. Nicely laid out and well lit. Nothing great in the way of paintings except Renoir's 'Jeunes Filles au Piano'. A lot of stuff by artists I don't know with strange names like Grimu, Albotte and even Hulk.

I am looking at Molinari's 'Hercules and Omphale' when a group of girl students comes up alongside. To my surprise, I think I recognise one of them. But why? How many students with a ponytail do I know? Zero. But this girl, very cute, seems familiar. And she's glancing at me with a surprised look on her face. Then, suddenly, I realise. She's the girl from the Grand Vefour. The one I had dinner with. The one who pushed off rapidly when I asked about getting together again. She looks different in jeans, shirt, ponytail, different from my chic dinner partner. The group moves off, but, wonder of wonders, she detaches herself from them and comes up to me.
“Hallo,” she says.
“Hallo again. It's a pleasant surprise to see you.” To say the least of it.
“I wanted to say sorry for disappearing so quickly after you had kindly bought me dinner. At that lovely restaurant.”
“Not at all. It was your driver who finished the evening.” She laughs.
“Yes. I suppose it was. Are you enjoying this exhibition?”
“Not sure. I haven't seen anything I would want to steal, except the Renoir.”
“It has a lot of names I don't recognise.”
A large lady tourist asks us to move on and have our tete a tete elsewhere. So we do. We are now looking at a group of six paintings by a guy called Willy James.
“Despite his name, he's a Swiss artist,” I say.
“Really? His work reminds me of somebody.”
“Yes, that's it. Little stick figures and urban backgrounds.”
“Willy is almost an unknown. Beats me why anybody would want to steal six of his paintings in one go.”
“It is odd, isn't it?”
“Unless it was his mother. Care for a coffee? At one of those places in the Palais Royal?”

We fight our way out of the Louvre's pyramid and walk across the gravel, go through the arch, cross the road at risk of life and limb, and settle in a small cafe, half way up the rue de l'Opera.
“So you're interested in art,” I say.
“Oh yes. I'm a third year student at the Beaux Arts. And you?”
“I'm a dealer. I have a gallery in London.”
“That explains why you're here! But, I couldn't work out why we had dinner in that lovely restaurant and why I had to give you the envelope so... surreptitiously. It seemed very odd but it was what my father asked me to do. He said it was urgent. So, of course, I did it.”
At this, I froze.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shorter books are coming back.....

Professor Tom Ressencourt, in a recent article for the Literary Review observed that the shorter novel is making a comeback. He said, " Short novels are for busy people, for the journey to work, for the weekend, for the beach.  They have no padding, no stuffing, no unnecessary waffle to get the page count up to 500 – just the story/the action/the characters/the dialogue. They are for the modern age.  They are for today's reader. Frankly I couldn't care less what type of coffee the hero prefers or what time he gets up in the morning.  I want the story to keep moving along.  And there are plenty of examples of  knock-out short novels in the past."

Professor Ressencourt's list included:
The Great Gatsby
Animal Farm
Peter Pan
A Christmas Carol
Northanger Abbey
Fahrenheit 451
The Old Man and The Sea
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Big Sleep
Bonjour Tristesse
Heart of Darkness.                                         They are all short novels.  About 200 pages.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A little background to Gabriella's home town - Venice.

The single, major factor that distinguished Venice in the 1500s, from the other
powerful states in Italy, is that it was not a principality or a dukedom, but was a state
run by merchants, by traders and by businessmen.
There was no permanent garrison of troops -as in other cities of the time - to
intimidate the population. It wasn't necessary. The Venetians of all classes felt that
their government was a fair and egalitarian one. The religious fraternities, the parish
organisations, the pageants and festivities gave them a feeling of belonging; and
through the magnificence of the state architecture, a feeling of pride.
If you fell upon hard times, the state would sell you bread and wine at subsidised
prices. It provided some hospitals and doctors and the Scuole (the religious
fraternities) would take also care of you if you were ill or penurious. There was
hardly any unemployment. Beggars had to be registered and the number always rested
around 400. If you were running a business, your enterprise was not at the mercy of
tyrants or the whim of a Prince, nor your premises likely to be looted by marauding
troops. Venice was an unusual and comfortable place to live in, for those times.
There were police patrols to keep drunken sailors and young hoodlums under control
and maintain the peace at night in the Rialto taverns and hostels. The state provided a
paid fire brigade as fire was a very serious matter. If you were a young woman in
danger of assault, it was better to cry 'Fire!' than 'Help!'. More people would rush onto
the street. The courts were considered fair and efficient. A young patrician was
gaoled for assaulting a black servant girl. If you couldn't pay a fine or a debt, you
could work it off with labour service. Murder was a hanging offence. There was even
legislation to curb bad language, insulting gestures and blasphemy. It generally
succeeded, although less so with the gondoliers who were inordinately proud of their
inventive vocabulary of insults.