Entrepreneurs are an innovative breed, but it takes someone special to innovate within an industry that has existed for centuries. One of these people is my good friend, Noah Charney, whose debut novel, The Art Thief, is now available in a bookstore near you.
Despite the wild success of the Da Vinci Code and its allusions to art theft which captured the minds of millions of readers and film goers, surprisingly, no formal academic efforts had ever been contributed to the fieldâ€¦that is, until Noah.
Noah is a graduate of Colby College and Oxford, where he invented his own degree in art theft history. Upon graduation, he wanted to do something unique. Having written several screen plays in college, Noah ventured into writing his first novel, ultimately to become The Art Thief published by Simon & Schuster. But, as many people know, publicizing a first book is no easy undertaking. Simultaneously to his work on the book, Noah organized an event using the contacts he’d made in the field. In June of 2006 he held a conference in Cambridge entitled â€œArt Theft: History, Prevention, Detection, Solution.â€� It was attended by the heads of the FBI, Scotland Yard, and Carabinieri Art squads.
According to Noah,
â€œNot only was I able to find people who were interested in art crime, but [I realized] almost no one currently worked in the field.â€�
Fortunately for Noah the stars aligned. Purely through his own initiative, while organizing the conference was able to get in touch with a renowned foreign correspondent who ultimately got Noah a feature article in the New York Times Magazine.
â€œIt was just dumb luck and coincidence that my novel sold within weeks of the magazine article. After the article came out, I was barraged with all manner of media interest (slightly frightening, people found my contact info without it being given out anywhere). Producers for fiction and documentary, literary agents, other journalists, film makers, you name it. It was quite amazing. One can spend an infinite amount of time and strategy writing coverletters and making phone calls. But get yourself written about, and everyone comes to you, cash in hand and doors open.â€�
But Noah didn’t stop with a novel. Noah has also started a non-profit dedicated to the analysis of crimes against art: ARCA. Amazingly, according to Noah art theft is almost exclusively an Italian phenomenon: Italy has about 20,000 reported thefts per year. Also interesting, is that art crime is very low-risk for criminals with only a 2% successful prosecution rate, and an average recovery rate of about 10%. (the more famous the object, the better the chance for recovery).
Back to the book. So I had to ask Noah how his book differed from The Da Vinci Code
â€œMy book is much more literary fiction than Dan Brown’s. There happens to be a thriller plot, but it actually has more of the feel of a spy novel, rather than an action thriller. It is about a clockwork plot with subtly-rendered characters, rather than about action sequences and conspiracy theories.â€�
Agreed. The book is great and I recommend it highly. I also recommend aspiring entrepreneurs consider and implement Noah’s strategies: personal initiative, organizing events and seeking out a niche.