March 12, 2009
(Guest blogger Ulrich Boser, author of a new Smithsonian book, the Gardner Heist, and a contributor to the magazine’s Around the Mall department weighs in on the influence of blogs and bloggers.)
Before a few weeks ago, I had never written a blog. I didn’t really read many blogs either. For the most part, I thought they were snarky and sprawling and far too navel-gazing. But then I wrote a book— “The Gardner Heist ” published by Smithsonian Books—and I was inspired. I decided that I wanted to start a blog, that I wanted to be one of those guys who hunches over his computer each night, posting nugget-sized items about his sundry obsessions.
Wait. What? How did penning a 277-page tomb tome inspire the literary equivalent of finger food?
Let me explain. I wrote my book about the largest art heist in history, the 1990 theft of a dozen paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. While there have been thousands of leads, hundreds of interviews and a $5 million reward, not a single painting has ever been recovered. Worth $500 million, the missing masterpieces have become the Holy Grail of the art world. And as part of my reporting, I uncovered evidence that one of the thieves may have been a Boston hood named George Reissfelder. I found FBI files that indicated that Reissfelder possibly stole the art, and Reissfelder looks almost exactly like one of the police composites.
Then, just a few days before the publisher released “The Gardner Heist,” US News and World Report political reporter Paul Bedard wrote about my book in his blog Washington Whispers. Sen. John Kerry had once helped Reissfelder get off of a wrongful murder conviction, and Kerry gave Bedard a fall-off-your-seat quote for the item: “Now we read this. It looks like the largest theft since the Devil Rays took what should have been the Red Sox’s 2008 American League championship. I don’t know if those paintings ended up on eBay, but I do know they’re not on my walls.”
After Bedard posted the item on his blog, news of the book flooded the Internet like a typhoon. The National Review’s blog posted an item. The Museum Security Network blog posted an item. The producers of Fox News started calling to book me for a show. And that’s when I realized that I wanted to get in on this discussion, that I wanted to engage in this online dialogue. Yes, of course, I’m late to blogging. Yes, of course, blogs might be a passing Internet fad. But for now, I’m calling my blog the “Gardner Heist.”
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