When Truth is stranger than Fiction
20th May 2019 sees the release of my fourth book, Secret Things and Highland Flings. Unlike the previous three books, the theme of this book is more along the lines of ‘crime comedy caper’ with a twist of romance, rather than a traditional ‘rom-com’ formula. I’ve taken a bit of a risk in terms of style, and I appreciate it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a story I’ve been longing to write for a few years.
The story was inspired by one of my favourite films ‘How to Steal a Million’ staring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Audrey Hepburn’s father earns his living by forging masterpieces and selling them at a hefty profit, much to his daughter’s dismay. But the real trouble starts when his reproduction of a prized sculpture winds up in a famous Paris museum. If experts determine that it is inauthentic, the family’s reputation will be tarnished… which is why his daughter (Audrey Hepburn) hires cat burglar (the gorgeous Peter O’Toole) to steal the sculpture back before it’s too late. The film is very funny and quirky, and the romantic chemistry between the lead actors is electric. It’s one of those perfect feel-good films, with superb acting and set in glamourous Paris during the 1960s.
I was spurred on to start writing Secret Things and Highland Flings after visiting the ‘Fake or Forgery’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was mesmerised by the intrigue surrounding The Woman at the Window painting (which features in the book). For nearly a hundred years, experts at the gallery believed the painting to be of Victorian origin. The portrait depicts a dark-haired woman with brown eyes, dressed in a prim high-necked sombre brown dress. However, it was only when the painting was sent off for cleaning that another picture was discovered hidden beneath the surface. What emerged was a portrait of the same woman, only this time she had blonde hair, blue eyes, and was wearing a sexy low-cut white gown. The painting was assessed to be from the Renaissance period and it was thought to be painted by one of the great masters, although the exact artist remains unconfirmed. It transpires that the Victorians had a habit of painting over Renaissance works, finding them to be far too racy and revealing for their conservative tastes.
This fascinating story, coupled with my love for the film How to Steal a Million, eventually sparked my enthusiasm for writing an art-based-heist story. It took several months to piece together the complexities of the storyline and I needed help from a local art expert to ensure the story was plausible… well, semi-plausible! I’m well aware the story is a little farfetched, but I had fun writing it and I hope it appeals to readers… even if it isn’t a traditional ‘romance’.