Michael Blanding is a Boston-based investigative journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, Salon, Consumers Digest, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Boston Magazine. His first book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, was published by Avery/Penguin in 2010. His new book is The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps.
From Blanding's Q & A with Ulrich Boser:
Why did you write this book?Visit Michael Blanding's website.
I’ve been a lover of maps since a young age – something about looking at map immediately makes me excited about traveling and discovering new places. So when I first heard about Smiley’s case back in 2005 I was very intrigued by his story and this world of rare-map collectors it involves. In 2011, I was complaining to a journalist friend that I didn’t have any good story ideas, and she mentioned that Smiley had just been released from prison and I should try and interview him. As soon as I spoke to him, I knew that I had the subject for a fascinating book that would be part psychological profile of a thief, part history of mapmaking, and part investigation into this obscure subculture.
Why does it matter?
Maps have been incredibly important documents over the centuries — they have helped to discover new territories, define boundaries, establish trading empires, and win wars. And yet, most people don’t know a lot about them. Many of these historical maps exist in only a few copies safeguarded by rare-book libraries and other institutions and so when someone steals or defaces them, they are changing our understanding of history. The fact that it was a lover of and dealer in rare maps who was doing the stealing intrigued me and made me ask...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: The Map Thief.