word craft


Story Behind the Story #73: City of Magic

My most recent­ly pub­lished book (Scholas­tic) is City of Mag­ic, the sequel to Mur­der at Mid­night and Mid­night Mag­ic

Per­haps you’ll recall Fab­rizio, the street-smart, snap­py-talk­ing ser­vant of Man­gus, the philoso­pher magi­cian from the ear­li­er books. This book is Fabrizio’s telling, and con­cerns, believe it or not, find­ing the secret of dou­ble-entry book­keep­ing. If you think that’s a dull sub­ject, think again, because the essay in which that account­ing method was first published—in Renais­sance Venice—has been called, and I quote, “The most impor­tant piece of writ­ing in the his­to­ry of capitalism.” 

But then, dou­ble-entry book­keep­ing is a method that guides you to the mak­ing of profits. 

exam­ple from freshbooks.com

Guess what? In the Renais­sance, there were peo­ple who want­ed to know that secret. That’s why Fab­rizio and Man­gus are ordered to go to Venice: to steal the man­u­script which first reveals how it is done. 

Now, I once lived in the city of Venice, Italy. It is truly—as it was called dur­ing the Renaissance—“another world.” Its islands, its canals, its ancient places, its many stat­ues (its sym­bol is the omnipresent winged lion), its archi­tec­ture, and its secret places, are tru­ly enchant­i­ng. In its hey­day it was the pub­lish­ing cen­ter of the world, the only repub­lic, the only place you could find clear glass, and its great plaza, Saint Marco’s, was known as “the liv­ing room of the west­ern world.” 

“Sun­rise view of piaz­za San Mar­co, Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy,” Eka­te­ri­na Belo­va, Adobe Stock
San Mar­co Lion, Venice, Italy

It was also a dan­ger­ous place, with fog, floods, nar­row walk­ways, secret police, and peo­ple dis­ap­pear­ing behind masks and swords. Guess who invent­ed the term “black­balling?” And please don’t for­get the noto­ri­ous pris­ons hid­den away in the Doge’s palaz­zo. You might like to know there are spe­cial cells for women and, oh, yes, a Tor­ture Room. 

What bet­ter place to set an adven­ture in 1492 for Fab­rizio and his new friend Bianca? 

And where is Fri­ar Luca Paci­oli, the man who is about to pub­lish the secret of dou­ble-entry book­keep­ing? On which island (among Venice’s one hun­dred and twen­ty) is he hid­ing? Fab­rizio must find him. 

Why did I go back to Venice and Fab­rizio? Because the sto­ry, like Venice, is full of sur­pris­es. As the poet Robert Frost once said, “If there are no sur­pris­es for the writer, there are no sur­pris­es for the reader.” 

City of Mag­ic: Be pre­pared to be surprised. 

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