Crimezine: So what brings you to Las Vegas Tony, you are from Los Angeles right?
Yeah, I drove in through the desert.
Crimezine: Like Hunter S. Thompson?
[Laughs] Yeah, Hunter would be proud. I drove through bat country to test fire automatic weapons—a pleasure trip flimsily disguised as research for my next book.
Crimezine: No machine guns in California right?
You got it. Despite what Hollywood might tell you, full auto weapons are illegal in the City of Angels—and throughout the State of California.
Crimezine: Not in Nevada though—
Yeah, they got it all here, Uzis, AK 47s, MAC 11s the whole nine yards. But I was specifically interested in test firing the Heckler and Koch MP5, a weapon used by Police and Special Forces throughout the world. It’s a real sweet gun, small and accurate, with low recoil and very rapid rate of fire.
Crimezine: So you are gun crazy?
Guns are a very serious business and they need to be treated with respect. I have trained with US Army Rangers and the LAPD. Unfortunately there are very many people who think the right to bear arms trumps not only personal responsibility, but the necessity of law enforcement to do it’s job. So while I am a gun advocate, I also believe society, particularly American society should do more to keep weapons out of the hands of bad guys.
Crimezine: What about the right to bear arms?
If you are a bad guy the only right you got is to put your hands in the air, end of story.
Crimezine: You have a new book coming out soon?
Yeah, The Fine Art of Murder. It’s the story of an old master painting that gets stolen from a Beverly Hills art collector. The narrative starts in the present day then trips backwards and forwards in time, tracing the murderous provenance of the painting and its owners.
Crimezine: Sounds very different from your previous books.
That’s right. I wanted to take a break from the Danny Costello series. I wanted to work with a wiser more time worn protagonist, so I came up with the idea of Professor Cornelius Franklin, an art recovery expert who is hired by the Vatican.
Crimezine: Is there a religious aspect to this book?
I wanted to discuss more than murder, or the resolution of murder in this book, I wanted to explore the redemptive aspects of characters conflicted by greed, obsession and the murderous conspiracy into which they are thrown. So there are religious analogies in this book, but they are subtle and thought provoking.
Crimezine: The book also has an historical aspect, and you deal with some very well known characters…
Yeah, history is an obsession for me, so is art. I wanted to create a crime novel that had never been done before, and I figured that if I was going to do something as crazy as travel five hundred years through time, I might as well explore characters and situations that would be known, although not overly familiar to readers.
Crimezine: For example?
Well, I start by discussing the way Niccolò Machiavelli commissions Renaissance legends Michelangelo Buonarroti & Leonardo da Vinci to compete in a paint-off, in the famous Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Machiavelli, uses this opportunity to bribe/blackmail Leonardo into painting a portrait of his mistress, Lucretzia Sfarzoso, A scenario that is based on actual historical events. Greed, treachery and murderous conspiracy are themes through out the book, and I follow the paintings subsequent provenance down the years as it effects and influences a whole succession of fascinating characters.
Crimezine: Like who for example?
Two of the biggest art thieves of all time are Napoleon Bonaparte and the Nazi leader Hermann Göring. I had to include them, as their impact on the history of European art is pivotal. But rather than retelling their story verbatim, I tackled their contribution tangentially, viewing their crimes through the eyes of strong minded female protagonists. In Bonaparte’s case I used Josephine de Beauharnais, who is perhaps even more fascinating than Bonaparte himself, plus her story is largely untold. In the case of Göring I used fictionalized secretary, Eva Bergen, to see events as they really happened and bring the story back into the modern age, where to a large degree art theft of the Nazi and Napoleonic era remains unresolved.
Where do you think all those cool Italian paintings in the Louvre come from? Napoleon stole them when he invaded Italy. Then the British stole a bunch of stuff from Napoleon, including many works by Leonardo da Vinci. Art theft is an eternal cycle. Plus, greed and acquisition are cornerstones of any criminal enterprise and it seemed to me that a book about art theft was not only a really natural and fascinating vehicle to discuss criminal motivation, but also cool way to create an original and unexpected murder story.
Crimezine: Sounds fascinating, we hear there has been movie studio interest?
That’s right, there is a good chance that will happen, but the gears grind slow in Hollywood, so we shall see.
Crimezine: When is The Fine Art of Murder released?
There have been a number of delays, but it should be available by the end of the month [September 2013]. Meanwhile, I am into my next project already.
Crimezine: Cool. Thanks for your time Tony. To close, what is your favorite gun?
Guns are like books, you show favoritism they get jealous, [laughs] but fun wise I would have two say the Chinese AK-47, it has a muzzle flash two feet wide and rears up like a King Cobra when you fire it. The AK certainly puts the lie to the idea that assault weapons are a means of home defense. If you unleashed an AK-47 in your living room it would cut your house in half, probably your neighbors house too.
Crimezine: So you don’t have an AK under the bed?
Hell no. If you can’t put an intruder down with a handgun or a Mossburg pump, you aren’t fit to carry a gun in the first place. As for this ludicrous idea we all need to carry assault weapons in case the government gets “out of hand”—guess what, the government is already out of hand, has been years and they have way sexier hardware than you can buy at your local gun store—even if you do happen to live in a full-auto State like Nevada.
The Fine Art of Murder by Tony Bulmer is available in paperback in September.