Part 1: Interview with Acascias Riphouse, on PBS, Cash in the Attic, hating the Irish, having Autoimmune Disease, and Real Life Mysteries

So why the Gardner Museum heist?

I blame PBS Independent Lens, they did show called “Stolen” on Art Detectives. Back in early 2007.  I really admired Harold Smith, in fact, there’s a character in the final book that’s a sort of nod to him.  Also, I would love to see The Concert, in person, at the ISMG before I die. So, it was a way to keep the story out there, in front of the public.

Do you attend auctions?

Like I can afford to bid in an auction on what FAB pays in royalties.

Honestly,  I was dragged to endless flea markets and garage sales as a child, and we moved frequently which prompted my mother to have a lot of garage sales . . . in which she accidently sold off some of my possessions. It’s where I get my fear of crowds, and my refusal to sell anything. Although I do have a family member that works with a very successful auctioneer.

As close as I ever want to be to an auction would be watching an episode of BBC America’s Cash in the Attic.

So you’re a hoarder?

No. I just buy carefully, use it completely, and then throw it out.  Very cost effective.

If you did attend an auction, what would you go for?

Colonial American furniture, probably. It was my parents’ big obsession. The whole house was Ethan Allen which, back when they were married and buying their first lounge suites, was a Colonial revival store.

Did you know Whitey Bulger was in California?

He had to be somewhere.  And don’t most mob bosses retire to somewhere warm? It was a lucky guess, and I’m sticking to that answer.

Do you really hate the Irish?

I am Irish. It’s a character. Characters have all sorts of quirks, just like people. They say stupid politically incorrect things without any malice, they lie, they forget, they kill, they steal, they love . . . just like human beings.  My characters don’t reflect me or my views on anything. They’re just characters.

So, you didn’t answer the question?

No, I don’t hate the Irish. OR any other community, race, nationality, gender, lifestyle, . . . .

Will you keep writing after Loose Fantasies is released?

After 6 books? No. I’m done with the Sarsfields set.  If the BBC or Masterpiece Theater or someone wants to buy the rights an do a series, God bless them. But they can do what they like with the characters and the storylines.

I’m all about letting go and trying new things at this stage in my life. I’ve been writing successfully for 30 years under another name, it holds no thrill for me.  If someone wants to published some older work I never bothered to publish, I’d probably let that happen. But new work? No.

Why did you create a heroine with Autoimmune disease?

Same reason I made the hero Welsh, it’s something most people have heard of but know nothing about. It expands the realm of possibilites, for the writer and the reader.

People rather trashed  Missy Elliott coming out about Grave’s Disease . . .

Yes, and that was rather sad. Especially, hearing other people with autoimmune diseases rant about how Grave’s wasn’t serious. It just showed the level of ignorance the public (even the public with autoimmune diseases) has regarding the disease.

In some patients, Graves disease represents a part of more extensive autoimmune processes leading to dysfunction of multiple organs (eg, polyglandular autoimmune syndromes). How would you liked to have thyroid problems plus all of the following:

  •  pernicious anemia,
  • systemic lupus erythematosus,
  • Addison disease,
  • celiac disease,
  • vitiligo,
  • diabetes mellitus type 1,
  • autoimmune adrenal insufficiency,
  • systemic sclerosis,
  • myasthenia gravis,
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • rheumatoid arthritis.

That sounds scary.

It is scary. People with Grave’s Disease have been put into mental hospitals, because their doctors didn’t understand their thyroid was out of whack. That doesn’t happen when you have something more obvious such a broken arm or cancer.

I worked in a doctor’s office for a few months to help out a friend. It was during the period when no Western medical doctor would call fibromyalgia a real physical disease. I daily saw suffering people, who had paid their GPs for help, and had been dismissed, even ridiculed, and sent on to Psychiatrists.

This went on for almost 2 decades, till finally the Western medical community became convinced these people weren’t mentally ill or faking. And that only happened because psychologists with integrity started standing up and saying, look, these people are not mentally ill.  They’re depressed because they are physically sick and you’re not treating them!

Not a big fan of the medical community then? Like your heroine?

Actually, I am a big fan of medicine that’s grounded in genuine care for the patient. There are a lot of good, caring, open-minded doctors out there, which is why diseases like Lupus have finally been recognized.

But I think western medicine is always way behind in realizing people live in a truly toxic environment that’s impacting people’s health and well being in ways they don’t yet know how to recognize as disease, but which certainly definitely is disease. Autism would be a good case in point.

It’s an established pattern now.  Western doctors simply dismiss their patients’ complaints if they don’t recognize the problem inside 2 minutes, especially if those patients are female. The problems continue, for a decade or two, till men are affected too, then suddenly it’s a real disease in need of treatment.  It’s happened with Lupus, Lyme disease, and the list goes on and on, . . .

Travel abroad, and at  home, is a big theme in your books.  Do you personally do a lot of traveling?

Huge fan of travel.  I love experiencing different cultures, places, ways of being in the world.  I started traveling when I was very small, all across America. It was great, but a drawback of Americas size is that most Americans grow up thinking “well, everyone lives pretty much the same, everywhere I go, this must be the only way to live, to believe, to run a government.”

Traveling outside the US, to South Africa, Finland, Tasmania, Hong Kong, anywhere is what shows one  there’s all manner of ways to live, to work, to think, to believe  . . . .  Everyone should spend a summer or a year abroad. Just to have that perspective on their own life.  And even if that time is spent quite close by in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, or Canada. So long as it’s different.

I really applaud Prince Charles for encouraging his sons to get out there.

Ever been involved in any real life mysteries?

A couple.  For some reason I always seem to be in the wrong place at the right time.  You know, walking a black dog, under some dark shadowy trees, at night, when a camarro comes tearing down the street, halts a few yards away, a guy in a track jacket jumps out of the passenger’s side and throws something heavy in a trash bin (the trash which you know is going to be collected the next morning at dawn). Then he leaps in the car and drives away.

That happened a couple years back.

You just know you have to go and look in the bin, because it might be a gun or a body part or drugs or . . . .

What kind of neighborhood do you live in?

Middle class, suburbia.  But the town is freeway close, so gangs tend to hop off the freeway, scream down a side street, steal a car, rob a bank, etc, and then jump back on the freeway and return to LA.

Anyway, then there was the time my teacher told me I couldn’t possibly be the legitimate child of my parents since they (and everyone else in the family) were O blood types and I was an A. Turns out it’s rare but it can happen, but I had to find that out through digging around scientific journals. And then I sued my science teacher for making slanderous public remarks about me and my mother. Good for the college fund.

Oh, and then last year, there was this rainy Friday morning I was going to the bank and found a guy driving around  in an unmarked truck, taking pictures of the entrances with a telephoto lens. I couldn’t help noticing. I’m was standing right there, and I’ve always been prone to observation. So I confronted him . . .

You what?

Hey, it was my money in that bank. So I looked this white guy in his white Ford F150 right in the eyes (while his camera was still in hand), one of those “I know what you’re doing, buddy” looks, and he pealed off . I went in and told the manager, who called the police. And I was glad I did. Two other banks were hit that day, just down the road.  Banks on off ramps closer toward LA. So, I figure . . . .

I’m getting the picture.  No pun intended.

Sure.

Speaking of pictures, do you think The Gardner’s art will ever be returned?

I do.  And I firmly believe I’ll live to see it. It’s an economic downturn, the art has been gone 20 years, there’s no punishment for returning it, and there’s a huge tax-free reward. Eventually a collector will die, someone will discover it, and return it for the money. Although . . .

Although?

I really don’t care if the Degas works, the Ku Vase, the gilded Eagle, or the Manet stay lost. Just the Vermeer and the Rembrandts interest me. I mean, have you ever seen anything as ugly as this Manet?

It is rather unusual looking.

And if you look really close at the left hand, the one holding the pencil, you can see the subject is flipping the artist the bird. Sort of “Get away from me you, weirdo. I’m trying to write here. Don’t be sketching me!”

So you’re offended as a fellow writer who doesn’t like to be disturbed?

Sorry, we’ll have to stop now. I’ve lost my train of thought. That flute of wine in the picture reminds me, I have to go open a new bottle of reisling I bought last night.

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