Wednesday 11 December 2019

Inspired at the museum?

Those of you who are into dinosaurs will know that Dippy the Diplodocus currently on tour. He's at the museum in Cardiff at the moment, and I have a date with a friend to go and visit before Christmas. I will report back later on the results, but I have to say, I am looking forward to it. I know, like a big kid.

I don't expect he will be making it into a book anytime soon, but I expect we will look at other exhibits while we are there, so some of them might. Writers do like to use art, museums and famous houses as hooks to hang a story on. Lots of history, human interest, maybe some scandal, or something tragic, or creepy. If you read time slip, I bet you've encountered a painting, or maybe a photo that has acted as a entrance to a past or alternative reality. Sometimes it's an object that acts as a catalyst. Often those are the creepy ones, like the M R James story Whistle and I'll Come to You. Writers also like archaeology - digging up hidden things. With the added bonus of the overtone of buried treasure.

I have a weakness for art - as I have said before, usually thinking about ways to steal it. There is a reason the both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair are among my favourite films. I'm fascinated by lost paintings too. Those can be one that have been stolen and never recovered, or ones that have simply disappeared somewhere in history. Friends send me links and press cuttings, which may or may not get me into trouble one of these days. I've done some research on Caravaggio for a lost painting book, He has a few real ones, although in this case it will be an invented lost painting, as I have a specific subject in mind. His life was so eventful that there is plenty of room for him plausibly to have painted and lost an extra canvas along the way. The popularity of those telly programmes about lost art, or pictures proved to be genuine old masters, or fakes, suggest that other people are just as fascinated.

Books and libraries are another catnip. I have a weakness for those adventure stories that involve some sort of old manuscript, diary or book. A friend took me to see the chained library in Hereford Cathedral, and of course before the visit ended we were speculating on the possibilities. I have a couple of 'old book' books simmering, one of which goes all the way back to Shakespeare. I haven't discarded the possibility that  I might use one of his lost plays one day, but the idea that I really hope to be working on in the near future involves a very dangerous manuscript that he has a hand in keeping safe. I have a whole back story brewing for that. Not sure how much of it will make it into the finished book, but I still have to know. I'd love to set a book in some of the London museums and libraries, and I can remember wandering around the New York Public Library, trying to figure out what I might do with that.

History, art and money. It's an irresistible combination.

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