Attic Whispers from the Blue Mountains [March 2022 Edition]

March 2022 NEWSLETTER

Attic Whispers from The Blue Mountains

Greetings from my attic in the Blue Mountains!

The dreadful events in the Ukraine have cast a dark shadow over the world, reminding us never to take freedom for granted, and always to be vigilant. The support for Ukraine and its extraordinary people standing up against unprovoked aggression has been overwhelming. Here in Sydney, our Opera House was recently lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as a clear sign of Australia’s admiration of the spirit of a freedom loving people in the hour of their greatest need.

All of us must stand united in our condemnation of what is happening in the Ukraine right now and do everything in our power to support a nation suffering unimaginable hardship and brutality at the hands of a deranged dictator who must be stopped. Whatever it takes!

Here on the east coast of Australia we have had the most severe floods in living memory. Whole towns have all but disappeared under water. This has caused unprecedented devastation with thousands losing their homes. With businesses and infrastructure destroyed, rebuilding lives will take a long time.

The work of our many volunteers has been outstanding, bringing out the best in the Australian spirit of mateship and caring for others.

The next book

Many of you have recently contacted me and asked if another book is in the pipeline. The answer? Yes, of course! In fact, I am working on it right now.

Those of you who have read my most recent book, The Death Mask Murders, would have noticed that a sequel has been foreshadowed. The ending of the book makes that quite clear. But wait, there’s more!

As you know, all of the books in the Jack Rogan Mysteries Series stand alone, and can be read as such. However, when we are talking about a sequel, the connection and interaction between the books is of course much closer. That was clearly the case with The Hidden Genes of Professor K (book 3) and the sequel, Professor K: The Final Quest, book 4 in the series.

Those of you who are familiar with these books will remember that I released a novella, The Forgotten Painting, before the publication of the sequel as a ‘link’ between the storylines and characters featured in the two books. This approach was very successful in ‘linking’ the books, and the novella itself was not only well received, but won several literary awards.

Because this approach has worked so well, I have decided to adopt it once again. What this means is that another novella will be released before the next book, the sequel to The Death Mask Murders, is published. This is just one of several literary treats to look forward to this year. More of this later.

You will recall that I indicated recently that the popular segment – Crime of the Month– would return soon. In fact, the first such segment – The Most Daring Art Heists in History(Part I) – was featured in the January newsletter. Judging by the feedback, not only was this segment well received, you asked for more. So be it! Here it is.

The Most Daring Art Heists in History
Part II   The Ghent Altarpiece also known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. The most frequently stolen painting in history.

According to art experts, Jan van Eyck’s iconic Ghent Altarpiece ranks among the most significant paintings ever created. Unveiled to the public by the artist in 1432 in the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent, it instantly became a site of pilgrimage for the faithful who saw in the altarpiece an extraordinary creation inspired by the Devine.
Since leaving van Eyck’s studio almost six hundred years ago, the stunning painting was stolen on six separate occasions, was embroiled in thirteen crimes, and has a history that resembles nail-biting thriller-fiction rather than well documented fact.
During the Great Iconoclasm in 1566, Calvinist fanatics tried to enforce the prohibition of idolatry and the creation of images of God by shattering priceless stained glass windows and destroying statues and paintings in Catholic churches in the Netherlands.
This would without doubt have been the end of the famous Ghent Altarpiece had it not been for the brave intervention of a group of knights who pulled the twelve panels of the altarpiece apart and hid them in the bell tower before the marauding fanatics entered the cathedral and enforced the radical Calvinist reforms.
In 1794 another turbulent chapter in the history of the altarpiece unfolded when Ghent was captured by Napoleon’s victorious army sweeping across Europe. The four central panels of the altarpiece were removed by the French, and taken to the Louvre in Paris.
After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. In a gesture of gratitude, the king returned the stolen panels to Ghent, the city that had given him shelter and protection during the French Revolution.
In 1816, a corrupt priest sold the wing panels on the black market in collaboration with a bent art dealer. The panels found their way to a museum in Berlin where they remained until 1919, when they were returned to Ghent as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler, who was obsessed with the occult and the supernatural, was convinced that the Ghent Altarpiece was a coded map that would show the initiated the way to certain Christian relics with supernatural powers.
Eager to get his hands on the altarpiece, he instructed his troops to locate it and bring it to Berlin. According to some sources the altarpiece was on its way to the Vatican for safekeeping in 1943 when it was intercepted by the Nazis and hidden in an abandoned salt mine at Altaussee in Austria. This was a secret location where countless masterpieces looted by the Germans known as Raubkunst, were stored.
The altarpiece was eventually located by the ‘Monuments Men,’ a group ofdedicated art experts from the Allied Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program the purpose of which was to locate, protect and preserve pieces of art and other culturally significant items stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
In May 1945, one of the Monuments Men, Captain Robert Posey, entered the salt mine in Altaussee. There, in a damp chamber deep inside the mountain, he stumbled across an unexpected treasure: the eight panels of van Eyck’s legendary masterpiece were waiting, undamaged, on top of cardboard boxes to be rescued.

This extraordinary story may have been forgotten had it not been for an art historian, Lynn Nicholas, and her 1995 book, The Rape of Europa, inspired by an obituary about a French woman who saved 60,000 works of looted art by spying on the German ‘Raubkunst’ operations during the war.
Suddenly, the Monuments Men were famous and inspired others to look further into their extraordinary activities that had rescued countless works of priceless art. One of those was Robert Edsel whose book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History culminated in the 2014 movie, The Monuments Men, written and produced by George Clooney, and starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett to name but a few well known stars.

It is true life stories like this that inspire my writing and my characters,
and shape the multi-layered storylines that have become the hallmark of my books.
I hope you didn’t mind me sharing this story with you. As you know, I greatly value the opinion of my readers and listen carefully to what they have to say. For that reason, I would be very interested to find out how this Crime of The Month segment resonated with you. This will help me select future material for our newsletters to entertain my thinking readers and the culturally curious.
I look forward to hearing from you, but now it’s definitely time for my favourite segment: Reader of the Month.

Once again, I have received many emails from readers like yourself, telling me how my work affects them, and how they see my characters, my research, and how I approach the many-facetted and often quite complex stories which are the backbone of my books.
In addition, many reviews have once again been posted on various platforms. A big ‘thank you’ to all of you who have taken the time to do this. As you know, reviews are hugely important to me personally, and to my standing as an author in a very competitive marketplace. For that reason, please continue to post those reviews and encourage your friends to do the same.
I always find it difficult to choose a Reader of the Month because there are so many worthy candidates, but once again, one reader definitely stood out: Carol from Texas. This is what she had to say:
First of all thank you for sharing your gift (writing) and sharing that gift. I just finished reading “The Death Mask Murders,’ but unfortunately for me, it only took me 4 days to read. I started with “The Forgotten Painting” and became hooked on your writing not only because of your technique in writing, but also because of the history you add. I am not only a history enthusiast but a gemologist for my family. Not that I doubt what you print but I do my own research on what you share and it has broadened my knowledge and for that I thank you. I now have read all of your Jack Rogan Mysteries.
Thank you again for your God given talent.
Carol
Texas. USA.
Thank you for your kind words, Carol. Readers like you inspire me, and make it all worthwhile!

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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