Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’

I’m honored to have author Scott Selby answer a few questions about his fabulous new book, FLAWLESS, which investigates one of the greatest jewel heist in history. For more on the book and its authors,  visit the book’s website

1. Your background as a scholar is impressive. (Scott is a graduate of UC Berkeley, Harvard Law School, and Sweden’s Land University, where he wrote his master’s thesis on diamonds.)  Can you elaborate on how your studies inspired and/or influenced FLAWLESS?

Thanks.  From law school, I learned about the importance of research. I worked as a research assistant in college as well as law school so that helped tremendously.  I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to such great schools.  My masters thesis in particular enabled me to study the diamond industry which was tremendously helpful in writing Flawless.

2. In tackling a book on the heist, what was your plan of action? In your investigation of the facts, which avenues did you pursue first?
The first thing was to write everyone who knew anything at all about the Antwerp Diamond Heist. Next, we tracked down each additional source of information that we could be it a document, court case, blue print, or person.

3. What aspect of the project do you find most irresistible or intriguing?
I loved the mysteries at the heart of the story. My co-author Greg Campbell and I had to work hard to dig up as much as we could to try to solve such mysteries and in the process we ended up finding out that things that originally looked straight forward were anything but.  For example, the more we found out about the combination dial on the vault door, the more of a mystery it became. The manufacturer and the locksmith who worked with it both explained in detail why it would be virtually impossible to film the combination being entered.  Before we did this research, we had believed like many others that it could have just been recorded surreptitiously.

4. The book does an excellent job of putting the reader in Leonardo Notarbartolo’s point of view. How were you able to grapple with such a difficult task, considering his reluctance to discuss the unadorned facts of the case?
My co-author Greg was able to meet with him face-to-face in a Belgian prison.  Unfortunately, Mr. Notarbartolo was not willing to discuss specifics without being paid, which we were not willing to do. He was however kind enough to permit one of his closest friends to accompany us during our research in Turin.

5. What tools for non-fiction writing do you find most helpful? Are there any resources you turn to again and again in your own writing?
I think the most important thing is to do your research and then once you have written something, continue to edit it over and over again. Greg and I, along with our editor at Sterling Iris Blasi, revised our book countless times.  The main resource I’d say are my friends who have been kind enough to read my work and give me much needed feedback. The track changes function on MS Word is a lifesaver.

6. Do you have any advice for writers (non-fiction or otherwise)interested in creating a flawless (or perhaps a less flawed) narrative?

Buy a few of the more popular books on how to write a proposal and how to write generally. Think about what you admire in others writing. And keep working on your own projects as long as it takes. If one book doesn’t work out, then start another one and try to learn from what you’ve done before. Good luck!

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Thank goodness @IrisBlasi sent me this book. 

I’m devouring Flawless, Union Square Press’ sparkling new non-fiction title. Within the pages, authors Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell (Blood Diamonds) detail the events surrounding the greatest diamond heist in history.

Half a billion dollars in gems boosted from an impenetrable underground vault within Antwerp’s locked down diamond district?

Oh yeah, Scarlet Whisper is all over this one.

What kind of Librarian/Rock Star/International Jewel Thief would I be if I didn’t do my homework on this dazzling book?

A rich veneer of history overlays the narrative. With focus and clarity, Flawless examines not only the oft politicized roots of diamond industry but also the origins of the gems themselves. As the world’s most liquid commodity, for centuries these  jewels have been mined and funneled into the pockets of tycoons and tyrants alike. 

Millions of dollars worth of carats are passed from hand to hand…and it all happens in Belgium, baby.  Antwerp rose to prominence over a century to become the center of world diamond trade. The book thoroughly explores the dichotomy between Antwerp’s moneyed diamond district and the surrounding tourist infested streets before transporting the reader to the backrooms and back alleys of Turin, Italy, a haven for mystics and thieves.

While the locales are in intriguing enough by themselves, the criminal masterminds responsible for the heist hijack the reader’s attention. Leonardo Notarbartolo and his gang of thieves are anything but the usual suspects; the “School of Turin” makes Danny Ocean’s crew look like small time crooks.

Flawless outshines most of the historical capers I’ve seen on the shelves. You’ll want to snag a copy. The execution of the premise is THAT good. Even though the loot has never been recovered, you’ll enjoy slipping into the shadows to follow the footsteps of the suspects.

Hungry for more? Then try these luscious lemon bars. While they aren’t sprinkled with diamond dust, the recipe is worth stealing.

Binge!