Vintage, $32.95 pb, 256 pp
Stealing Picasso is an art heist caper based on the sensational theft in 1986 of Picasso’s Weeping woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. The crime, attributed to a nebulous gang of militant aesthetes calling themselves the Australian Cultural Terrorists, remains unsolved. Anson Cameron, a Melbourne writer best known for the novel Tin Toys (2000), takes this historical loose end and runs with it, discarding all but the most cursory details of the source story.
Cameron’s disdain for the quasi-academic rigour of the ‘based on a true story’ genre is admirable. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with heavily researched historical novels, yet such works can feel like research in fictional dress, as if the factual trumps the imagination. The risk Cameron runs in Stealing Picasso is dispensing with historical authenticity and giving his imagination free rein.