A common question, I wager every writer of thriller, cozy, and mystery novels fields at one time or other. I have and I do, so I thought I would answer it this time by addressing a single novel, one of my recent episodes in my Sean NMI Sean detective series.

The novel is titled “The Case of the Purloined Painting.” All Sean's novels are “The Case of...” It's my small way of saluting a famous and very successful writer of mystery detective stories from a previous era, a man named Earle Stanley Gardner.

A while ago I read a story in the local paper about a local art museum curartor and director who had had an interesting job in the army during World War II. He and a group of other art directors from  around the country became increasingly worried about the loss of art and culture of Europe. This was in the mid 1940's, as the Allies stepped up the bombing and prepared to invade Fortress Europe as it was called. The Allies were at war with Nazi powers, Germany and Italy, if you remember your history classes.

These arts and cultural directors went to President Roosevelt and  persuaded him that the Allied forces of  the United States and Britain needed some direction in helping to avoid the destruction of important historical sites in Europe, cathedrals and large statuary that couldn't be moved. This small group of older men joined the US Army and went off to fight a very special war. The successes of the Monuments Men, as they became known, resulted in  a book, a movie and a foundation dedicated to restoring stolen and damaged art after the war.

Fast forward a few years and I read with dismay a story in local papers that American military units stood around in the city streets  while local thieves robbed several Bagdhad museums of fragile and irreplaceable artifacts because, “they had no orders to protect the collections.” More people need to read history, I thought.

I decided there might be a mystery in those events, so I had a mythical soldier steal a painting from a destroyed home in Poland at the end  of WWII. Back home the soldier used the painting to create a manufacturing business. Then he decided to try to return the painting  to its real owner  and that triggers international criminals who know the real owner is still alive and holdingvastly incriminating information about other crimes. That leads to murder, more mystery and danger  and involves my short detective here in Minneapolis. The original theft of the painting is only the initial crime and has little directly to do with the rest of the story.

So you can see, dear readers, the genesis of a crime novel can actually be far removed from the creative imagination of the novelist.

Brief bio and links for Carl Brookins:

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Buy links:

Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.


jrlindermuth said…
You never know what's going to spark those ideas. Enjoyed the read.
Good post, Carl. I miss seeing you at mystery cons. Just too difficult for me to fly these days--the flying is fine--it's the before getting on the plane, changing flights and the after that gets me.

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