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Tag: Writing Inspirations

Panama-Costa Rica border crossing and Holiday Gone Wrong

Panama-Costa Rica border crossing and Holiday Gone Wrong

Would you cross this bridge? Until recently, this was the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama at Rio Sereno. One I had to cross over several times because of a visa stamp mishap. You can’t see the large holes in the wood from this picture, but trust me, they’re there. I took this picture during a wonderful trip to both countries. The adventures I had formed the basis of my short thriller – Holiday Gone Wrong. You can pick…

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When Fiction is Perceived as Fact: Rituals of the Dead

When Fiction is Perceived as Fact: Rituals of the Dead

My latest novel, Rituals of the Dead, came to be because I wanted to write a mystery about an Asmat bis pole. Considering the Asmat live in the Indonesian province of Papua, the setting for my historical mystery was easily decided. The premise was simple: my protagonist – an art history student in present-day Amsterdam – would investigate an event that took place in Papua, before the Dutch government ceded their control to the newly-formed nation of Indonesia in 1963….

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World War II and Looted Art – inspirations for The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery

World War II and Looted Art – inspirations for The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery is a dual timeline thriller set in WWII and present-day Amsterdam. The plot and several characters were inspired by university lectures and archival research I conducted while studying art history and museum studies at the University of Amsterdam. To learn more about Amsterdam’s turbulent World War II history, read my article “Amsterdam: the Perfect Setting for an Art Mystery“. To learn more about the artists who inspired the portrait from which this novel takes…

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Asmat art and artifacts in Dutch Museums: Inspirations for Rituals of the Dead

Asmat art and artifacts in Dutch Museums: Inspirations for Rituals of the Dead

The art and carved objects created by the Asmat of Papua inspired my artifact mystery, Rituals of the Dead. Here are some photographs of the Missie (Mission) Museum Steyl’s Papua New Guinea collection, as well as that of the Tropenmuseum – in particular their fantastic bis poles. Missie Museum Steyl is a fascinating museum located in Southern tip of the Netherlands. You can read more about Museum Steyl, their Asmat collection, the colonial origins of many ethnographic museums the locations described in…

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The Colonial Origins of Ethnographic Museums and Rituals of the Dead

The Colonial Origins of Ethnographic Museums and Rituals of the Dead

Since finishing Rituals of the Dead, I have noticed an influx in news reports about the restitution of ethnic artifacts – a topic central to my latest mystery. So we are clear, I am not referring to antiquities such as the Parthenon Marbles (or Elgin Marbles, depending on your nationality). I’m talking about shrunken heads, painted shields, feathered headdresses, carved ancestor sculptures, ritual masks, and the like. The same objects currently filling western museums dedicated to anthropology and ethnography. At…

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Mission Museum Steyl

Mission Museum Steyl

At the southernmost tip of the Netherlands is a hidden jewel unknown to most tourists and locals – the Monastery village of Steyl. It is situated on a bend in the Maas River, across the water from Germany and close to the Belgian border.   Steyl Mission Congregation The village was founded in 1875 by Father Arnold Janssen as the home for his newly established Steyl Mission Congregation. The brothers and sisters of this Catholic organization built their own self-sufficient…

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How Henri Matisse, Jan Sluijters, Edvard Munch, and Moos Cohen inspired The Lover’s Portrait

How Henri Matisse, Jan Sluijters, Edvard Munch, and Moos Cohen inspired The Lover’s Portrait

In my novel The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, the character Lex Wederstein is a young, talented Jewish artist whose career is cut short by the Nazis occupation of the Netherlands. Lex is based on a real person, the Dutch Jewish painter Moos Cohen. Because I am an American writing about sensitive topics in Dutch history, I didn’t dare make up any historical events or characters yet based them all on actual events and people I learned about while conducting archival…

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What is a Bis Pole and Why Were They Desired by Collectors?

What is a Bis Pole and Why Were They Desired by Collectors?

The exhibition central to my latest novel, Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery, is based on an actual exhibition of Asmat art entitled Bis Poles: Sculptures from the Rain Forest. I can imagine most readers are now thinking – what the heck is a bis pole?     Ancestor Objects Carved to Honor the Dead These ancestor objects – akin to Native American totem poles – are created to honor the recently departed during a ‘bis’ ceremony. A bis…

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Amsterdam: the Perfect Setting for an Art Mystery

Amsterdam: the Perfect Setting for an Art Mystery

Amsterdam is the perfect setting for an art-related mystery, especially one in which the looting of artwork by the Nazis during World War Two plays a central role. My second novel, The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, is about an American art history student who finds clues to the whereabouts of a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer. I can…

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Claiming My Place in the World

Claiming My Place in the World

I thought I was so cool, handing over twenty-five Euros to a freshly washed junkie I’d met in a Red Light District coffeeshop, instead of one of the smellier ones lurking on the poorly-lit bridges crisscrossing the canals. As soon as he pocketed the cash, he scurried outside and charged down the street. I hurried after him, half-running to keep up. When he darted into a darkened alleyway, I froze and my guard went up. Was he robbing me, or…

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