The time for cunning plans and crazy capers.
December 17, 2013 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I really, really enjoyed Nicholas Schmidle's article "A Very Rare Book" (on a nearly-flawless contemporary forging of a unique copy of Galileo's "Sidereus Nuncius") in last week's New Yorker and I'd like to read more journalism/non-fiction like it.

The article really reminded of The Club Dumas/The Ninth Gate and had many things I really enjoy in fiction:
-A ingenious, brazen scheme that fools even experts.
-A colorful cast of characters (book dealers, thieves and gangsters, religious officials) and settings (a rare book shop in Argentina, the Vatican library, the homes of eccentric rich people)
-A rhythm to the story: the forgery is suspected, the scheme unravels, the techniques are revealed, etc.

So I'd like to read more things like that. Preferably longform journalism than entire non-fiction books, but if they're particularly good, why not.

It doesn't have to be about the same topic or themes, just the same sort of combination of complex plans, detective work (not necessarily by actual detectives) and interesting people and places. Just for reference, I would consider Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat along similar lines.

I'd really prefer not to read anything particularly grim or depressing and nothing with sexual assault of any sort.
posted by griphus to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Richard Altick's The Scholar Adventurers is a series of essays on the literary critics who uncovered, among other things, James Macpherson's forgery of Ossian and the intricate make-believe world that the Brontë sisters created when they were children. It's a lot of fun.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:29 AM on December 17, 2013

Some of the essays in this collection will probably fit the bill better than others, but I'd bet a hundred bucks you'll get a kick out of David Grann's The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.

Oh: but if you want to avoid the grim, skip "Trial by Fire." It's one of the greatest essays I've ever read, but it is absolutely heart wrenching.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:31 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"The Jefferson Bottles: How could one collector find so much rare fine wine?"

There are a couple more on the same topic here.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2013

The Billionaire's Vinegar is a book involving the Jefferson bottles. Warning - sympathetic portrayal of the Koch brothers contained within.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2013

Not about forgeries, but it fits the rest of your criteria. From the Blue, The Lizard, The Catacombs and The Clock.
posted by Brittanie at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2013

You want to read The Poet and the Murderer! About a guy who was not just a modern-day forger but he was also an ex-Mormon who basically forged these long-lost Mormon docs in this bizarre scheme that is tough to explain. But! The guy who discovered this whole story was actually on the case because his library had purchased an Emily Dickinson poem they had thought was genuine. The guy is sketchy and there is someone who gets killed, but there is no sexual assault that I can recall and the book is on the short side for being a complete book.

You would probably also enjoy The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures (I did an FPP about one of the essays in it) and, for you especially, The Ransom of Russian Art which is so up your alley I presume you have already read it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

pretentioius illiterate has it. Anything by David Grann is amazing and that collection in particular will hit the same spot as "A Very Rare Book" (which was awesome).
posted by raisindebt at 2:51 PM on December 17, 2013

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