This is a guest post from our book club author, Charles Benoit. We’re reading his book, FALL FROM GRACE, this month for our book club. Download the discussion guide and learn more about why we chose this book for our book club here!
THE ART OF THEFT
by Charles Benoit
I love stories about people stealing things. I know, not very role-modelish, but there’s something about a small band of crooks trying to pull off the big job that gets my heart racing. Now I get sweaty if I accidently swipe a stubby pencil from a bowling alley, so it’s not like I’m going to make a major career switch anytime soon. Yet my bookcase is lined with heist and caper novels.
And that’s the first thing you need to know—heists and capers aren’t the same thing. In a heist novel, there’s a reasonable expectation that the criminals will successfully pull off the job. They might get killed in the process, but at the start it looks like they can really do it. In a caper novel, there is little hope for success—the job is too big and the crew is too inexperienced/crazy. They might just pull it off in the end, but it sure don’t look that way at the start.
FYI—Fall From Grace is a caper.
In the book, our heroes set off to steal a painting from a library and a photograph from a museum. I could have just made up a fake painting by a fake artist, but what fun is that? Instead, I invested many hours of solid procrastination into researching the kind of works of art I wanted my characters to steal. That’s when I stumbled onto G. Ravlin (1873-1956), an American impressionist who traveled the world to paint the amazing things she saw. Check out what she said in a letter from France to her sister in 1906:
“You know there are hundreds of students who come over here and just get lost in the torrent and are never heard of [as artists]…You can see I’m not going to be that kind, that’s settled, for I’ve jumped off here alone without a friend or a particle of help, except the friends I make as I go along…”
How do you not love a person like that? That cool confidence is exactly what I wanted for my Grace. As for the actual painting to be stolen, I made that part up, but I imagined the kind of thing I could see G. Ravlin painting.
There’s something wonderfully haunting about the photographs of Cindy Sherman, especially Untitled Film Still #21, a black-and-white self-portrait that screams intrigue and mystery. Because it’s a photograph, there are many authorized prints of this piece and I decided that the fictitious museum in my book should have one. For now, anyway.
Finally—and just so I don’t get any calls from the police saying I’m an accessory to your burglary—Thou shall not steal! Because thou will get thou-self busted and thou will not like that one bit.
If you were going to steal a famous painting, which one would you steal? Tell us in the comments or tweet it to Charles Benoit @BenoitTheWriter! Don’t forget to join the Fall From Grace discussion on the forums here!