Welcome special guest Laurel Beacham, art thief extraordinaire and POV main character in USA-Today best-selling author Ritter Ames’ mystery/suspense thriller, Counterfeit Conspiracies. Laurel has stopped by to answer questions about what brought her into the events of Counterfeit Conspiracies. And for a special treat, scroll down for an excerpt and special sale pricing.
Interview with Laurel Beacham (main character in Counterfeit Conspiracies)
- What was your first car? Ah, it almost pains me to say it, but my first car was a classic Jaguar my grandfather purchased before his death, and left for my sixteenth birthday present. I adored that car, and still have a deep, abiding love for sleek and fast sports cars. Yet, as much as I loved the Jag—not the least of which was because it reminded me of my late grandfather’s love for me—I had to sell it a few years later when my father gambled away the family fortune, then skied off his favorite Alp. It took six months before they found the body, which was only identified from his dental records. By then, of course, I’d used the proceeds of the car to help finance my tuition and living expenses so I could stay in college.
- Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? Definitely Firefly. What I wouldn’t give to be on a crew like that one. Since my job is stopping art theft, returning stolen masterpieces, and getting the criminals whenever possible (but never at the expense of losing the art work), I think I could feel really comfortable in the middle of Mal’s crew. I’m used to working with fringe informants, grifters, thieves, pickpockets—whomever might be able to provide the information I need to recover a missing masterpiece.
- Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane? Someone who doesn’t talk. Preferably someone who sleeps and lets me sleep. I don’t want to sound anti-social, but you see I generally run 24/7 while I’m working. So I have to grab sleep whenever I can get it. Sleeping on a plane or train is often the only long-term rest I can snag when I’m in the middle of a mission.
- Best guilty pleasure ever? Can I say sleep again? Sorry, gotta laugh. But no, probably my best guilty pleasure is letting Jack Hawkes order dinner for me. I really love to eat—I think it’s due to the high stress and all the running I do. And Jack is simply a master at ordering the best meal every time. But don’t tell him that—it’s way too easy for him to get big-headed about things. And it would just give him the perfect rebuttal the next time I tell him he can’t keep trying to call all the shots or following me everywhere.
- Who would play you in the movie? Hmm, interesting. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence. But she’d have to be a blonde. And really snarky. Still, I think she could pull it off, don’t you?
- What is the one thing you can’t live without? I lost my mother when I was four years old. In my teens, I lost my beloved grandparents who raised me, and who gave me shelter, confidence, and a firm foundation of knowing who I am and what is truly important. When they died, I watched my father throw away the family’s reputation, wealth, and everything anyone with the surname of Beacham once held dear. Then Daddy Dearest took off to Switzerland with his latest bimbo and skied off that Alp I mentioned earlier. When mobsters and drug kingpins popped out of every corner trying to get me to pay off the markers they held on his excesses, I lost everything else of monetary value. And that silver spoon I was born with? It became my means of digging myself out of the mess I had landed in. But the experience proved to me that nothing in life is more important than my self-respect, my ability to out-think the opposition, and the importance that art serves for humanity. So, the one thing I can’t live without? I’d say the people I work with—the ones who stand by me and struggle to accomplish the same goal I strive to accomplish. Now you can probably understand why I said Firefly when you asked that question earlier.
- As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up? I was always taught the importance of keeping art available to the public. So, while I majored in art history, that was just a stepping stone toward what I do today. I need to know everything about what I’m seeking, and having an art history background helps with that. Granted, if my grandfather was still alive he would probably handcuff me to a desk, and have me finessing donors to gain money for museums rather than tracking down art thieves and working to bring down criminal forgery syndicates. But I’m good at what I do—all phases of what I do. And some of the tricks I’ve learned from the not-so-saintly people I have to rub shoulders with helps me in my jobs as “reclamation angel” to people who’ve lost family art to others. I can’t say more about that—too risky. However, a couple of my better exploits are documented in the Bodies of Art Mystery Series—and in particular, COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES and MARKED MASTERS.
- What are you working on right now? Right now? Oh, I’m in the middle of trying to stop the biggest art heist Europe has ever known. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating. It’s what developed out of the so-called “easy job” I was first tasked with in COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES, and spiraled into much more than we ever imagined by the time we were involved in MARKED MASTERS. I hesitate to tell you more, as I really don’t want to slip up and give out any spoilers. But if you like fast-paced mysteries, snappy and snarky dialogue between a couple of smart operatives who are always trying to out-maneuver the other person, and terrific settings like London, Milan, Florence, and picturesque villages in France, I’d love to invite you along.
Blurb: Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames
Laurel Beacham may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she has long since lost it digging herself out of trouble.
Her father gambled and womanized his way through the family fortune before skiing off an Alp, leaving her with more tarnish than trust fund. Quick wits and connections have gained her a reputation as one of the world’s premier art recovery experts. The police may catch the thief, but she reclaims the missing masterpieces.
The latest assignment, however, may be her undoing. Using every ounce of luck and larceny she possesses, Laurel must locate a priceless art icon and rescue a co-worker (and ex-lover) from a master criminal, all the while matching wits with a charming new nemesis. Unfortunately, he seems to know where the bodies are buried—and she prefers hers isn’t next.
COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES is the first book in the Bodies of Art Mysteries by Ritter Ames, and is published by Henery Press. It and the sequel, MARKED MASTERS are currently on sale for $2.99 in all ebook formats, and can also be purchased in trade paper and hardback from Amazon and Barnes Noble.
- Book Title: Counterfeit Conspiracies (A Bodies of Art Mystery Book 1)
- Author: Ritter Ames
- Genre: Mystery/Suspense
- Publisher: Henery Press; Second edition (February 2, 2016)
- Pages: 194
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Excerpt from COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES
On this return visit—my acquisition finale—I slid into the darkened gallery. The circular space, lit only by the minimal luminosity filtering through a half-dozen narrow arched windows, allowed my shadow to mix with those already in residence. Night vision goggles allowed the glorious set of Rembrandts and French Impressionists to glow alongside the beauty I came to liberate.
It was a vibrant seascape, circa 1821, and a breathtaking scene of energy and clear passion. A little known work by a well-respected artist, which had been cherished by the family of its previous owner before eventually falling into the hands of the billionaire’s father. Gazing upon the work, I could almost hear the buoy bell ringing in the distance, but the room’s current illumination left the scene too dark to see beyond the receding foamy water. I shivered as if the wind picked up; the painting was that powerful.
I heard a noise. A human-moving noise.
I had to hurry. I slipped a blade from my belt and ran it along the frame’s edge.
The moment the canvas was free, I heard the master of the house bark, “What are you doing?”
I spun to find him standing behind me. Holding his gaze, I sheathed my knife and dug into another pouch, then threw a capped vial into the darkness between myself and potential capture. The glass broke, and when the chemicals inside hit the air, a dense smoke obscured all vision. But I had already calculated the distance to the nearest window, moved to it, and affixed a suction cup with a braided nylon line to the wall. The painting protected in one hand, my remaining gloved fist, now fitted with brass knuckles, shattered the narrow pane. I slid through the turret’s slit window, taking a few shards of glass along for the ride. Then I rappelled down the rough stone wall to the manicured lawn.
“Zeus! Apollo! Robbery! Attack!” my impotent enemy screamed.
* * *
Next morning, the painting and I slipped into the back of Greg’s shop for the new frame constructed per my specifications. A close facsimile to photos, and infinitely better than the garish gold number that restrained the seascape during its turret imprisonment, the burnished brass frame even evoked a nautical theme that conjured the look of a spyglass.
I changed into blue coveralls and left his shop with the newly framed painting wrapped in brown paper. Magnetic signs attached to my van implied a courier service, as did the faked breast pocket insignia on my uniform. The drive to Mrs. Lebowitz’s tiny home was quick.
“Yes?” she said, answering the door. A Holocaust survivor, the only one in her family to make it out of Europe alive, she was a child when the Allies freed her from Auschwitz.
My brown-wrapped package once graced her grandmother’s dining room. Before it was stolen by Nazis and purchased with fictionalized provenance by my adversary’s father. One of my pro bono projects to not only return the art to its true owner, but to insure masterpieces such as this one did not get locked away from public sight.
“Mrs. Lebowitz, I have a very special delivery.”