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EJ Knapp

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Stealing The Marbles
by EJ Knapp   

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Publisher:  Rebel e Publishers ISBN-10:  0986973173 Type: 


Copyright:  Aug 16, 2010 ISBN-13:  9780986973178

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Stealing The Marbles

At the turn of the 19th century Lord Elgin stole pieces of the Parthenon and shipped them to England.

At the turn of the 21st century Danny Samsel is going to steal them back.

When does a wrong become a right?

Danny Samsel has defeated the finest security systems in the world. Interpol wants him; the FBI wants him; the CIA wants him. He is a Master Thief – even the White House could not prevent him from
liberating one of their paintings.

Now, after a year languishing on Kefalonia, he has turned his attention to his greatest adventure: the heist of the century. In the 19th century Lord Elgin stole pieces of the Parthenon and shipped them to England.
In the 21st century Danny Samsel is going to steal them back. He has decided to return the Marbles to Greece.

His motives are not entirely altruistic: having enraged and estranged Kastania, his beautiful and extraordinary girlfriend, who just happens to be able to access and overcome any computer system, he wants her back in his life. She never left his heart. And he needs her help to steal the Marbles from the British Museum.

With help from old friends worldwide plus a few new, surprising ones, Danny and the Marbles endure a perilous journey across Europe to their Hellenic home. With dire, vicious interventions from Interpol and
avaricious underworld art collectors, betrayal from a trusted friend, Danny conquers all obstacles with grit and humour. At great cost to himself and grievous loss to his accomplices, Danny rights an international wrong, settles a few other scores, foxes old foes, and guarantees the future of his chosen career.

Chapter 1

His eyes narrowed. His dark skin flushed darker. From under his breath came a Greek word having something to do with immorality, someone’s mother and a donkey.

“Pasty faced, uptight bastards,” he said aloud. “Sheep! Passive sheep, he called us. The great Athenian general Pericles commissioned the architects Iktinus and Kallicrates and the sculptor Phidias to construct the Parthenon four hundred and forty-seven years before the birth of Christ. Where were the British at this time? I’ll tell you. They were scurrying about in loin cloths and animal skins, worshiping trees and howling like rabid dogs at the moon, that is where they were!”

I sipped my beer in silence as Gerasimos went off on the rant, as I knew he would. There had been a debate earlier in the week at the Zappeion in Athens over whether the marbles should be returned to Greece or remain in the British Museum. From what I’d heard, the debate hadn’t gone well, ending in a riot that saw hundreds arrested, including Gerasimos himself.

Diplomatic salvos were now being fired across the European continent between England and Greece. All the newspapers were carrying the story, most staying neutral, others falling on one side of the controversy or another. Because the discussion had been televised, news clips of the melee were featured on every newscast for three days running.

“That bad, huh?” I said.

“Worse,” he said, finishing the dregs of his beer and removing another from the bucket. “The Committee for the Return of the Marbles is in complete disarray. Those in England who seemed in favor of discussing the issue will no longer talk to us. And the damn reporters. I live in fear of any stranger who approaches me.”

He uncapped the bottle, lifted it to his mouth and drained half of it.

“So what happens now?” I asked.

“Now? Nothing happens now. A hundred and fifty years we’ve sought the return of our antiquities and this fiasco has set us back to square one. Not that I’ve ever believed the Brits would return what rightfully belongs to Greece in the first place.”

I sipped my beer, letting the comment hang in the air. We were sitting at an outside table of the small taverna where we often ate, the air redolent with the scent of grilled lamb and oregano. The faint strains of a Haris Alexiu tune drifted from the kitchen.

“Can’t you just, you know, go over and take them back?” I asked.

The look on his face was one you would give a child who insisted that space aliens lived beneath its bed. “Take them back?” he asked.

“Yeah. You know, go up there and just tell them to give them back or else.”

“You Americans” he said, shaking his head. “Force is the only thing you know. He who has the biggest gun wins, is that it? Well, it doesn’t work that way. In case you hadn’t noticed, Greece and Britain are on the same team. Even if we had the military strength to challenge Britain, we would not. Issues of this nature are handled diplomatically, not militarily.”

“Well, your diplomacy doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere,” I said. I tore a chunk of bread from the basket and dipped it into a bowl of tzatziki. The yogurt was tart, the garlic strong. Gerasimos uncapped another beer. “Maybe you could just hire somebody to steal them or something,” I continued.

“Steal them!” he shouted, nearly dropping the just opened bottle in his lap. Several people at other tables glanced over at us. “Steal them,” he said again, leaning toward me, his voice lowered. “Are you taking drugs? Do you have any idea what the Parthenon Marbles comprise?”

I sighed. I’d heard an accounting of the marbles so often over the last year that I knew the inventory by heart. “The British Museum has fifteen metopes, fifty-six panels from the frieze, and seventeen pedimental statues,” I recited. “They have one of the columns from the Erechtheion and one of the ladies from the Porch of the Maidens.”

“The Caryatid,” he whispered, staring past my shoulder into some distant place where the Maidens were once again united. His eyes refocused and he said, “and you think someone could just walk in there and haul all that away? You’ve been reading too much science fiction. Even if they could get past the security, how would they do it? Beam it aboard the Enterprise?”

“Okay, okay, I admit it would be almost impossible …”

“Not almost, my friend. Totally!”

“Okay. But what if, just for the sake of argument, mind you … what if they, you know … just sort of showed up one day?”

“Showed up?” He took a sip of beer and set the bottle on the table.

“Yeah,” I continued. “Like, someone goes to open up the Acropolis one morning and there are a couple of trucks out there and, inside, are the marbles. What do you think would happen? Would you just give them back?”

“The idea is preposterous,” he said, waving his hand in the air as though brushing away a mosquito.

“Okay. Preposterous. But go with me here. I’m just curious. What would the government do? Would there be a fight? Or would the Greeks just capitulate and return them to the British?”

“Over my dead body,” he roared and once again disturbed the patrons at the other tables.

“So you would fight to keep them?” I asked.

He leaned back in his chair and began to rub his lower lip with his finger.

“They, the marbles, show up at the Acropolis,” he said.

“Or somewhere in Athens,” I said. “Back in Greece, anyway.”

He thought a moment longer; the tip of his finger moved to the dimple in his chin. “I suppose,” he said at last, “there would be those who would want, or feel threatened enough, to give them back. The diplomatic pressure would be intense.”

“Would there be those who would fight to keep them here?” I asked.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes. Yes there would be. I, for one. If the marbles were to find their way home again … yes … I would fight to keep them here. To hell with the British, the marbles belong to Greece!”

This was the moment. What would be the point of stealing the marbles if it was a sure bet they’d be returned in the end? Gerasimos was the key to that question. I had learned early on in our friendship that he had a real hard-on for them. His great-great grandfather had been conscripted by the Turks who had ‘sold’ the Parthenon Marbles to Lord Elgin at the turn of the nineteenth century. Gerasimos had been weaned on the stories of the sacred shrine’s desecration, passed down from one generation to the next. He had a passion for the marbles that rivaled Melina Mercouri’s and, though not the Minister himself – as she was – he did hold an elevated position in the Ministry of Culture. If the marbles were to suddenly appear outside the Acropolis, the Ministry of Culture would surely be one of the government agencies involved in what to do with them. I was hoping that Gerasimos had enough power and influence, that he could persuade the powers that be to keep them in Greece.

I leaned forward, hesitant to voice the all-important question. “Do you have that kind of power, Gerasimos? To keep them here?”

“I don’t know,” Gerasimos said after a long silence. “There are many who think as I do. That the marbles belong here. I believe I carry enough influence in the government to pull together a coalition. One at least as strong as any coalition in a position to send them back. It would be a fight, to be sure. The British would not be happy … and they are a powerful neighbor to provoke.”

“So, you would fight to keep them,” I said.

“Yes. I would do everything in my power to keep the marbles in Greece. But,” he said, reaching for his Spaten, “this is all quite hypothetical. A fascinating mind game, perhaps. Surely a gratifying thought. But nevertheless, impossible.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re probably right. Still, it sure would be entertaining to watch.”

“You are bored my friend,” he said with a wry smile. He tipped his beer back and took a long drink. “I think you need a woman to share your bed.”

Professional Reviews

Stealing the Marbles – book review
Stealing the Marbles is a novel that surprised me. It has a distinct old flavour in its writing style – by old, I mean it reminds me of the thrillers I read as a teenager, when becoming addicted to the tension of a good book. One where people are hunted, kneecaps shot off, and revenge or fear saturates most pages.

Daniel, the main character, is such a likable character. What makes this book delightful, is although you are reading about a thief who plans to pull off an impossible job, it gives a lot of insight into Daniel’s conscience. We tend to think thieves have no conscience, and this juxtaposition is a real gem inside these pages.

The tension builds slowly, sucking you into the drama and making you family. I didn’t expect to become emotionally attached to the characters, but I did. This is the value of a good writer, a good author gets you to care about fictional characters.

There are two things I can tell you without hesitation on completion of Stealing the Marbles; 1) The author has a love of food, and 2) he’s passionate about the Greek Marbles.

The title suggests, that we’re talking about marbles in the modern sense. That’s what I thought when I first read the title; however the marbles are in fact artifacts taken from Greece by Lord Elgin, and now they are greedily ensconced in Britain. There’s a theme running through the book, about brilliant art – Why do those who have no connection of pride to a collection, think they have the right to hold onto another country’s heritage?

This is true of Egyptian artifacts too. Yet if the countries where these works reside had any conscience, they would in fact return their *scores* back to the lands they came from and return the wealth of history back to the country they originate from.

The Greek Marbles comprise of fifteen Metopes, fifty-six panels from the frieze, seventeen pedimental statues, a column from the Erechtheion and one of the ladies from the Porch of the Maidens. At the time the Ottoman Empire were to blame, but that doesn’t excuse the perpetration of this insult, by keeping these artifacts hostage.

It’s all very political, which is why Stealing the Marbles is such a treasure of a book. It shows you the human side to historical plundering. It shows you how this still affects the culture of their birth to this day. It is plain when reading Stealing the Marbles, that E.J.Knapp loves his history, he enlightens the reader in such a touching way, that whether you like the Parthenon, ouzo, the Greeks, or not; by the end of the book you care about the injustice.

This book shows you what it is to be a thief, a good one, but it comes with a price. Interpol follows you, crooked men want to break you, nothing can put a price on friendship, or love, and if you’re going to cross dangerous men, you will at some point find yourself being beaten into a pulp, while running from the cops, and simultaneously pulling off the biggest heist in history, one that bruises the ego of a nation whose arrogance should be examined.

Stealing the Marbles is a treasure of places, countries, and what makes each place Daniel goes to special. EJ Knapp brings to life places I’ve never heard of, but now feel; as if I’ve been where he’s been, just through reading his work.

(The photos are courtesy of my friend Claudia on her visit to Greece – so much beauty! EJ Knapp manages to paint this beauty with words)

The last few pages had me sitting with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. This book manages to move you, it really does.

It takes you inside the world of a thief, showing you just how much it takes to plan and execute a night of thieving, it contains a sense of humour, and it has a decent pace. If I were any less satisfied with my life, Stealing the Marbles would have imbued a hunkering for this exotic and frenetic lifestyle of Daniel’s, (the main character.)

Flying around the world, being paid obscene amounts of money, and thriving on the adrenalin kick of breaking the law, this book was well worth the read.

Go on the run, pick up Stealing the Marbles, and start reading, and you’ll know how it feels to be hunted. You’ll be reminded of what it is to fall in love. It will give you loss, make you smile, and give you a lump in your throat. It’s a slice of life you’ve never tasted, and until you taste it, you won’t know what you’re missing. This should be on everyone’s reading menu.

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