Sequel Inspiration: Art Forger Ken Perenyi

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Photo by CBS News

The idea of writing a sequel for Ravenscraig was in the back of my mind for some time  before I found the right story to tell. I have the CBS Sunday Morning Show to thank for providing the inspiration for the story line for this new historical novel, which is yet to be named. In March of this year, CBS ran this fascinating story reported by Lee Cowan profiling master forger Ken Perenyi.

“I take pride in my work, and I think it speaks for itself. I would find it difficult to feel bad about creating beautiful paintings.”   

                                 –Ken Perenyi

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CBS did the story because Perenyi was attracting a lot of attention with his tell-all1930 memoire, Caveat Emptor in which he explains in great detail how he was able to create more than 1,000 fakes over thirty years. He made a ton of money, was never caught, and is continuing to paint today, although in a perfectly legitimate and legal business, selling his art as works painted in his hand in the style of a number of talented and famous artists. His website is filled with examples of the kinds of paintings he is happy to paint to order. How delicious is this story for inspiration? I immediately ordered Perenyi’s book and finished it in one day, totally inspired by the talent, the scandal, and the naughtiness of it all.

There are many critics, including art consultant and appraiser, Brenda Simonson-Mohle, who find Perenyi and his intent to profit from deception utterly despicable:

sa_logo_72dpi“I found myself cringing at every page turn. I find it appalling that Perenyi duped people for so many years with his fake paintings with no legal consequences and doubly insulting that this book is his venue to brag about it. While I had to read it, and feel like I had to report on it in this blog, my greatest wish would be that the book would flop, that it would be given no press coverage and that Perenyi would die in oblivion. It is not a likely scenario in our prurient culture that absorbs and celebrates such anti-heroes with more enthusiasm than we give to people who make real contributions to society. Perenyi will likely get the 15-minutes of fame that he seeks from publishing this book. The book’s afterward states that he continues to pump fake paintings into the marketplace from his Florida studio and that they are collected as reproductions or as “Perenyi-copies.” I get nauseated just thinking about it.”

I see why people who make their living in the art market would be horrified at the story, but as for me, frankly I find it fascinating that he got away with it. It turns out a great many artists have preceded Perenyi on this path.

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Click for Renoir mystery

Perenyi’s story led me to begin a most interesting line of study to gain an understanding of artists who traffic in fraud and other art crimes.

There are many wonderful scholarly works as well as documentaries, news articles and the works themselves to examine in this area, and I was immediately hooked. More than anything else, it is the personality type of the art forger that I find so intriguing.

The new novel I am writing deals with a very talented art forger in France in 1914 who enlists the help of a familiar Ravenscraig character to sell forged paintings to American millionaires.

Stay tuned for more news on the developing storyline!

Sequel Inspiration: Dinner at Eze in 1914

The Mediterranean view from Eze
The Mediterranean view from Eze

I am working on a scene in the Ravenscraig sequel which takes place at Eze, an incredible Medieval Village that is known as the “Eagle’s Nest” for it’s view of the Mediterranean.  We had the good fortune to visit this stunning place on the French Riviera some years ago and we enjoyed a most elegant lunch at the Chateau Eza.

Today I came across this beautiful video that will give you a sense of why I chose Eze as location for a very important dinner in 1914. Luxury is always inspiring. Eze is a few miles away from Monaco.

For someone raised on the prairies, like me, I can tell you it is a bit of a hair-raising ride up that mountainous road to get to Eze, but worth every pounding heartbeat.

Art Forger: Mark Landis

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Click image to see Avant Garde Diaries documentary on Mark Landis

The sequel to Ravenscraig has taken me down a fascinating road in the study of art forgers.

Many of them have similar reasons for wanting to pass fakes into the marketplace but Mark Landis is different.

Landis is a philanthropist who donates his works to art museums and other organizations for the apparent pleasure in being treated as someone of importance. He has been creatingmarklandis forgeries by copying works for more than thirty years and has never been charged.  He presents his works as gifts in honor of his mother’s or father’s memory.

He sometimes dresses as a Jesuit priest to heighten the credibility of his donations.

Learning about the world of art and specifically the world of art forgery is highly entertaining, and I have decided to share links to some of my finds from time to time.

Here then is the story of Mark Landis, as told by Alec Wilkinson of The New Yorker in his feature article The Giveaway.

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photo by Shane Lavalette

Thank You Reviewers of Ravenscraig in the UK

Ravenscraig coverFew things are more gratifying to a writer than to have someone say they like your story. Readers who share their comments about what they like, what they found lacking and what they are recommending to the world is the lifeblood of an author’s career.  We learn from the criticism and we are encouraged by the praise. 

This may seem like a small thing, but it remains remarkable because there are thousands of books sold before a review is posted.  I’m talking about your neighbor, your sister, your co-worker here, not the big time reviewers in newspapers and bloggers who get books in advance of publication.  It’s the reader who buys the book or who is given a copy by a friend, or borrows it from the library who matters.  A choice is made. A book enters your life to occupy your time for days. If you hate it you will drop it in four minutes.  But if you like it, you become invested in the world of the characters.  You come to know the people in the story and you develop opinions about them. Sometime you fall in love and it is sad when the book ends and you feel that the story should have gone on, just a little bit longer, or that there should be another book, or an entire series.

Once in a rare while, a reader feels compelled to share their thoughts.  That is gold for areviews writer.  For me, this has made all the difference and has created the desire to write the sequel to Ravenscraig. (This next one will be all about art forgery in 1914  being sold to millionaires in New York.)

Next time your book club gets together, ask your members how many books they read in a year, and ask how many reviews they have written in their lifetime.  It’s true that those who take the time to post those reviews are very special indeed to the authors.  Even the big names are likely to read your words when you post those reviews. 

So it is that I send out a big thank you today to the readers that have found Ravenscraig and have been moved to write a review.  Writers live off the kind words of people who love our stories. We know that not everyone will get what we are saying, but for those who do, there is no greater joy than a fab review on Amazon.  It drives us to keep going, despite it all.

So to Mazza who posted this review in the UK, I can only say thank you so much for your enthusiasm and for sharing your thoughts.

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Thank you Mazza!

Happy weekend everyone.

And by the way, if you want to send me a note, I will certainly write back to you.  You can write to me at sandikaltner@aol.com. Or connect with me on Twitter @SandiAltner.

Also please see the reviews on Amazon.com

Ravenscraig email L

Storytellers: Jacob Colgan and Oceanna Colgan: Letter from Fred

Jacob Colgan, Green Shoe Studio
Jacob Colgan, Green Shoe Studio

Every once in a while you come across a story that brims with grace, true love, and proof that there is much good in the world.

So it is that I am sharing the story about a very talented creative team led by music producer Jacob Colgan, the owner of Green Shoe Studio in Peoria, Illinois.  He held a contest to find a great new song. The rules asked singer songwriters to put a video up on Youtube of a performance and to send the link to Green Shoe Studio.  Along with the many email entries came one thick manila envelope in the mail.  No video, no youtube link, no email address.  But in the package was the story of a love of 75 years.  It was a letter from 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh paying tribute to his Sweet Lorraine.  Here’s the story, beautifully produced by Oceanna Colgan.

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A Letter From Fred from Green Shoe Studio on Vimeo.

You can find “Oh Sweet Lorraine” on Itunes featuring Jacob Colgan and Fred Stobaugh.

By the way….Oceanna has a fantastic collection of images on Pinterest. Click on the image below to link to her boards.

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Roulette History at Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco

photo by Monaco Hebdo
photo by Monaco Hebdo

For the last couple of weeks I have been researching gambling in the famous Monte Carlo Casino in the early part of the 20th century. It’s fascinating reading and I am learning about the luxurious lifestyles of the rich and titled who flocked to Monaco to play, be treated royally, and hob nob with others of their high social standing.

Monte Carlo Casino 1900-1910, Library of Congress
Monte Carlo Casino 1900-1910, Library of Congress

The Monte Carlo

The Monte Carlo Casino was a most impressive gambling venue, where spectators and social climbers would come to be in the company of these illustrious members of the upper class, some pushing forward to rub elbows with them, perhaps even to take their money at the gaming tables.

The Monte Carlo continues to be one of the grandest venues for gambling complete with updated and unbridled displays of wealth, but naturally, slot machines, electronic games and a relaxing of the dress code has made today’s casino visit a much different experience than it would have been in the days prior to the start of the first World War.

Ravenscraig Sequel

My new novel, a sequel to Ravenscraig takes RJ Wilkesbury to Monaco to enter a new phase of his life. (No spoilers!) He is hoping to find his way to a poker game, but alas, roulette is all the rage and he can’t help but succumb to the seductive charms of the spinning wheel rattling a tiny marble home to make–or ruin–a fortune in a single landing.

History of Roulette

You may be interested to learn, as I was, that the history of roulette goes back several centuries.  Here’s a very entertaining short video produced by supercasino.com  I found to share that will give you the background.

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo Casino 1900-1910 from the collection of the Library of Congress

Writing the Sequel to Ravenscraig

Summer reading
Summer reading

I am happy to share the news that at long last I am seriously at work writing the sequel to Ravenscraig.  This story is settling into the world of art forgery and starts in 1914. 

For me, fiction writing starts with serious research and for this novel, I have been learning about the exclusive world of art collectors, dealers and auctioneers.  I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get to such a  a fascinating field of study. Rife with scandal, and steeped in tradition, the art world makes for delicious reading.  Please feel free to share your reccomendations.

There is nothing quick about my approach to writing a novel, so I am not ready to say when this book might be available.  I can tell you that I am at my happiest on days like this when I can wander through history, and in this case luxury to see where the story goes.

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So as not to spoil the fun for the readers who have not yet finished Ravenscraig, I will tell you only that the new novel opens in Monte Carlo just before the Great War.  Gambling, luxurious living, and the particular challenges of the world of the fine art market set the path for the new adventures of some familiar characters and some new friends who join the fun.

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Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Like Ravenscraig, the new book will be based on historical truths and will be driven by the appalling yet frequently charming behavior of my favorite imaginary friends.

From time to time I will share some of the images I find inspiring, like these of the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, from a fantastic website on all things fashionable called Zsazsabellagio.

I have a small favor to ask:  If you have finished Ravenscraig, please don’t spoil the fun and tell anyone about the ending!  I recently gave a talk for a large group and one dear lady couldn’t help but stand up and blurt out some information that should not have been revealed.  Ugh.  No spoilers please!

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Monaco
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Hotel de Paris, Monaco
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Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Ravenscraig 100th Amazon Review

Sandi AltnerFew things are more gratifying for an author than to have people tell you they like your story.  Whatever you may think of Amazon and its dominance of the ebook market, I can tell you that there is a huge benefit to being able to hear from Amazon reviewers who take the time to share their thoughts on the books they’ve read.  Like many authors, I appreciate and read every review.

It takes a long time for a book to gain traction and to become known.  The reviews help people find books that are in the area that they like.  Ravenscraig is a family saga, historical fiction, with romance, a Canadian immigration story and of interest to people who like social history and particularly the Titanic.

So it is with delight that I saw the 100th review of Amazon appear this weekend.

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The 100th review was written by Mary K. from Minnesota who gave Ravenscraig 5 stars. Thank you, Mary!

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Here are some of the other comments from Amazon reviewers.

Click here to see more Ravenscraig reviews.:)

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Winnipeg Titanic Passenger Esther Bloomfield Hart

titanic1912Titanic Anniversary

My thoughts in April always come back to Titanic.  It is 101 years since the tragic sinking of the grand ocean liner when it struck an iceberg late on April 14th, 2012.  The gashed hull quickly put the ship in peril and it was less than three hours later that the ship slipped beneath the sea, taking with her over 1500 lives.  The survivors huddled together agains the freezing area, bobbling about in lifeboats through the night.  705 making it to safety when the rescue ship, the Carpathia came.

hart_poupeeEva Hart’s Mother Recalls Titanic Tragedy

A little girl named Eva Hart was on Titanic with her parents.  They had left their home in Ilford, England and were on there way to begin a new life in Winnipeg, Canada. Eva and her mother survived the sinking and much later in her life, Eva did a number of interviews about her experience.  Her mother, Esther, was not as anxious to talk to the media, but she did give a harrowing first account to her local paper when she returned to England with Eva.  Here is a previous post where you can read Esther’s story about the sinking of the Titanic.

Titanic Story in Ravenscraig Inspired by Fortune Family Tragedy

fortune_m2The Fortune family of Winnipeg was returning from the Grand Tour, when they set sail on Titanic.  This week marks the 101st anniversary of the sinking.  I have been studying Titanic and her passengers and crew for many years. It is such fascinating reading.

Learning the story of the Fortune family, which you can read here, inspired me to tell their story in my historical fiction novel Ravenscraig. I include information about their travels and the response in the Winnipeg newspapers on hearing of the plight of the family.

Ravenscraig free april 10-12
Click here to download from Amazon

If you want to read more, please download the ebook, Free today on Amazon!

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about Titanic, a good place to start is the Encyclopedia Titanica website.