Attic Whispers from the Blue Mountains [January 2022 Edition]

JANUARY 2022 NEWSLETTER

Attic Whispers from The Blue Mountains

Greetings from my attic in the Blue Mountains!

It’s 2022, can you believe it? New Year’s Eve already seems like a distant memory. That said, we must approach the new year with optimism and positive thinking, especially as far as this dreadful pandemic is concerned. There are definitely some encouraging signs washing across the world as far as that is concerned: the experts seem to believe that the pandemic may have peaked, and is declining. Let’s hope they are right. This seems to be the case here in Australia right now. Great news indeed!
A few days ago, we celebrated Australia Day here down under, and there was definitely a sense of optimism in the air. The sun was shining, celebrations on Sydney Harbour were colourful as always, and the famous fireworks and outdoor concerts in front of the Opera House in the evening were simply spectacular.

With the release of The Death Mask Murders late last year, we have reached another milestone in the Jack Rogan Mysteries Series. The series now represents a unique reading experience comprising of seven novels and two novellas, more than 3500 paperback pages of exciting reading in all. As there are more than 350 main characters involved in this body of work, I have – at your request – prepared a comprehensive ‘Characters Glossary’ to assist readers in navigating the storylines without getting bogged down, or distracted. I will address these issues more fully in our newsletters later in the year. This is just one of the many exciting new items on the agenda for 2022. Just watch this space!

For those of you who have been waiting patiently for two of our popular newsletter segments – Hooked on Classics, and Crime of the Month – to return, I have good news! They are definitely back – stronger than ever – and we will begin with Crime of the Month, right now in this edition. After that, we will turn to Hooked on Classics and alternate the segments. Unfortunately, due to space etc. considerations, we can’t do both, otherwise our newsletters would turn into novellas! This is always a problem. Ask a storyteller to write something, he will do just that: tell stories. And they are never short!

 

Many of you who are already familiar with the Jack Rogan Mysteries Series would have noticed that I have a particular interest in art theft. This fascinating subject features quite prominently in my work and has been incorporated into various storylines.
In The Forgotten Painting, for instance, art theft is the centrepiece of the whole novella. Art theft also features prominently in The Lost Symphony and The Death Mask Murders.
Because I take authenticity very seriously, detailed research underpins everything I write about. Without that, it isn’t possible to write convincingly about complex subjects and blur the fine line between fact and fiction in a way that the reader is never quite sure where one ends and the other begins. And that is of course one of the hallmarks of my writing style.
However, this, like everything we do, comes at a price: in this case, a huge amount of research, not all of which can be incorporated into my books. For that reason, I would like to share some of the fascinating material I have come across in my research over the years with you now. After all, you are one of my dedicated thinking readers who, like me, are culturally curious.
Because the subject of art theft through the ages is extensive, but not always well documented, I have decided to divide our current Crime of the Month segment – The most Daring Art Heists in History – into three parts, namely:
I          The Pirate and the Last Judgment;
II         The Ghent Altarpiece;
III        81 Minutes; 13 Masterpieces; $ 500 Million.
Parts II and III will feature separately in newsletters to come.
The Most Daring Art Heists in History
Part I     The Pirate and the Last Judgment

The reason I have chosen the theft of Memling’s Last Judgement as the opening is twofold: first, it is one of the oldest, well-documented art heists, and second, it is a tour de force through 500 years of European history.
In 1465, Angelo Tani, the head of the Bruges branch of the powerful Florentine Medici Bank, commissioned a painting from the Flemish painter Hans Memling for a chapel in Florence. This stunning painting – the Last Judgment triptych painted between 1467 and 1471 – depicts the Last Judgement during the second coming of Christ.
In the centre panel, Jesus sits in judgement while the Archangel Michael who stands below him, weighs the souls.

The condemned are driven to hell (left panel)

And the saved in the right panel are guided to heaven by St Peter.

When the triptych is closed, it shows Tani and his wife kneeling in prayer.
After completion, the painting was sent to Italy by ship. It was on board the galley St. Matthew, an English vessel, when it was boarded in the North Sea by Paul Bedecke, a Danzig privateer, in April 1473 and the painting was seized.

The powerful Medici didn’t take this act of piracy lightly, and took the matter to the papal court. Bedecke and his backers defended the case on the basis that the seizure of the St. Matthew was lawful. In support of this argument he pointed to the fact that the Hanseatic League was at war with England at the time, and the capture of the galley was therefore a legitimate act of war, and refused to return the painting.
So, what happened to it? What followed was an extraordinary 500 year journey through European history, which this wonderful painting has somehow almost miraculously survived undamaged.
First, it was donated by three wealthy burghers to St. George’s Church in Gdansk, and from there ended up in St Mary’s Church also in Gdansk.
The painting, by now quite famous throughout Europe, came to the attention of the sixteenth century Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, an avid art collector, who wanted to buy it for the staggering sum of 40 000 thalers, a fortune at the time. The Emperor failed to acquire the painting because the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, demanded that it be given to Gdansk as part of war contributions.
In the early nineteenth century, Napoleon’s army swept across Europe and took the painting from Gdansk to the Louvre where it remained until the Congress of Vienna in 1815. As part of the peace negotiations, it was then taken from Paris to Berlin where it remained until its return to the St Mary’s Church in Gdansk where it could be admired until World War II. Towards the end of the war, the Nazis took the famous painting to a little church in Thuringia where it was discovered by the Red Army. The Soviets then took the painting as war booty to the Hermitage in Leningrad where it was exhibited until its return to the Pamerini Museum, now the National Museum, in Gdansk in 1956. What a journey! What a painting! What a story!

The release of The Death Mask Murders late last year in many ways surpassed expectations and resulted in several bestseller rankings around the globe with hundreds of reviews. None of this would have been possible without the wonderful support of readers like you.
As you know, I read all the reviews and reply to the many emails sent to me, especially after a book launch. That’s why I take great pleasure in nominating one of those readers as Reader of the Month.
The decision is never an easy one, but this month one reader definitely stood out: Audrey, a dedicated reader from the USA. This was the review she posted on various platforms on 8 December, 2021, shortly after the book was released:

“This book was amazing, astonishing, dramatic, and by far the best book I’ve ever read! It spans from Pizarro and the Incas, to the Nazis! From France to London to South America! Isis, Lola, Jack’s mother, Dupree, Tristan and the Countess are all back! I love history so I loved this book! This book was complex, dramatic. It captured me from page one and I couldn’t put it down. I can’t begin to imagine the massive amount of research that went into this book. I was amazed! I couldn’t recommend this book higher! It’s a must read!”

Audrey, I find your enthusiasm not only infectious, but hugely rewarding, because it tells me that I have succeeded in one of the main aims that underpin my writing: connecting with readers like you, and entertaining them!
Thank you for your uplifting words.

Just another little reminder about the FREE Starter Library which can be downloaded right now by visiting my website and following the prompts.

Don’t miss out on the giveaway below from Prolificworks.

STAY SAFE, STAY CHEERFUL, and please STAY IN TOUCH.
We are all in this together, and together we will get through this!

Sincerely,

Author Gabriel Farago

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