Author B.A. Shapiro has written a new novel called “The Art Forger” about the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She’ll be talking about the book on Thursday, Jan. 22, as part of CJP Women’s Philanthropy’s one-book read at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley. I asked B.A. about her books, her writing schedule and her own theories about the Gardner theft.
CJP Women’s Philanthropy describes the upcoming event as a “one-night book club.” What will that entail?
I’ll be speaking about my book “The Art Forger,” about the largest unsolved art heist in history, for about 25 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period.
Tell me about the book.
“The Art Forger” is the book of my heart. I’ve had five previous novels published, but they did not sell well and were read by few. In fact, I have another three left unpublished! The previously published novels are psychological thrillers and three are genre books, but this one? I just decided to write it. It’s about the heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a forger, and the art scene. I spent three years writing it. It really defied categories. But then it was rejected because it defied categories. Eventually Algonquin Books was willing to take a chance, and then it turned into a New York Times bestseller. I got a contract for two more books. Then my older books were turned into e-prints, and they began to sell. This book saved my career!
My newest book is called “The Muralist” and takes place in New York City right before World War II. This was when the WPA employed women. My character hangs out with Jackson Pollack, and Mark Rothko is her lover. She disappears while trying to get Jewish families out of France. She’s also enemies with Joe Kennedy and Charles Lindbergh.
Do you have a daily writing schedule?
Writing is my job, and I’m a workaholic. I always get up and work. I do other things—see friends and family, go to the theater. But I’ve been writing my butt off this fall. I’m in Florida for the winter, and this is how I’m spending my time.
What’s your take on the Gardner heist?
Well, I have two theories. One is a good one and one is a bad one! The first is based on the fact that the authorities suspect the IRA, which would often kidnap and hold them for ransom. I think they hired inside people, and overnight they brought the paintings out to the pier and put them on a ship to Europe. My theory is that they’re now using them as collateral. It’s a good theory because the paintings are being taken care of. The second theory is based on two guards who admitted to always being stoned. They would go to parties at Berklee College of Music and talk about how easy it would be to steal paintings from the museum. My theory is that someone then did it as a lark, just to see if they could do it. And once they did it, they kind of asked, now what? They couldn’t sell them, so they decided to dump the paintings at the dock. But the truth is, no one knows! Anything is possible. It’s a 25-year-old ongoing crime.