Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld

Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld

This was a compelling read. Bill Mason is one of the most successful jewel thieves this country has ever seen—think Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. In some ways he was much smarter than the police and FBI: they couldn’t keep him in prison without falsifying evidence. In other ways he was a typical dumb criminal: he publicly thumbed his nose at the cops and purposely made them look inept. The most compelling parts by far were the descriptions of how he planned and committed the heists. Mason robbed Phyllis Diller, Robert Goulet, Armand Hammer, Truman Capote, and the mob among others. Some of these jobs were pretty simple (picking a lock on a hotel door) and others were not (inching around a ledge in a driving rainstorm sixteen stories above the pavement). Interesting stuff; I certainly won’t be using the “Please Make Up Room” signs in hotel rooms any more!

He also spends a lot of time complaining about the harassment visited on him and his family by law enforcement. While I have little respect for cops that abuse their authority, I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone that makes a living by invading homes and stealing family treasures. Glorifying a criminal enterprise is not a good thing. There are a few sentences of remorse at the end, but I never felt Mason was sorry for anything other than getting caught. That said, this book was well written and fascinating. I suppose you’d have to call it a guilty pleasure.

First Sentence:
My name is Bill Mason.

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