August 12, 2006

"Just a Chap Passing Through"

You might find the idea of a book on "The Secret World of Fine Art Insurance" to be soporific at best, but I can honestly tell you that Bill Smith's "Just a Chap Passing Through" has all the intrigue of a good detective novel combined with some insider glimpses into the world of fine art.

Bill Smith was more than an insurance adjuster, he was THE man to go to in the case of damage or theft of art work. Respected, indeed revered, by all parties involved in claims from collectors and curators to law enforcement and even the insurance companies themselves, Bill Smith knew the world of fine art inside out and backwards and could be counted upon to look after all sides in a considerate, expedient and fair manner.

Written in his own voice, this collection of tales and remembrances brings to life the gumshoe adventures of a conscientious man in the field. When the Art Institute of Chicago had 3 C├ęzanne paintings stolen in December of 1978, it was Bill Smith, in concert with the museum officials and the FBI, who nabbed the thieves. When a prominent physician fulfilled his art fantasies by stealing the works he wanted, it was Bill Smith who put the pieces together and solved the case. When a priceless Stradivarius violin was stolen on Nantucket Island, it was Bill Smith who guided the local police to the hiding place.

Story after wonderful story, with some private observations interjected in the form of "Conversations While Dancing", "Just a Chap Passing Through" takes the reader into the rarefied world of fine art, grand theft and good versus evil. Bill Smith died in 2002. This book is a tribute to a man who was both passionate about and dedicated to the work he loved. It's a great read!

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