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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Mason, Bill: Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief

  Amazon  

5 stars

Bill Mason had me in his book's prologue, in which he describes at length how he stole a fortune in jewelry from Armand Hammer's Fort Lauderdale apartment. The job entailed a harrowing walk--in the dark, during a storm--along the slippery ledge that skirted Hammer's building, 18 inches wide and 15 stories up. This particular heist is just one of many carefully planned, often extremely dangerous, and highly lucrative robberies that Mason details in his autobiography, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, which was first published in 2003 (and was co-written with Lee Gruenfeld). For much of his life Mason was a sort of gentleman thief, who pocketed the jewelry flaunted by the rich and famous--the list of his victims reads like a passenger manifest from the Love Boat--and who never carried a weapon or took part in violent crimes. Mason lays bare his criminal record in Confessions (the statute of limitations has run out on all his crimes), but he also discusses the uglier side of his lifestyle, the effect that his avocation (he never really needed the money) had on his family.

Simply put, this is one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Mason's discussions of his various scores are riveting, inherently dramatic and very well told:

"I'd envisioned the whole trip with my back to the wall, but after about ten feet of futilely wiping rain from my eyes and imagining my feet sliding out from under me in a heel-to-toe direction, I turned around and hugged the wall instead. I wiggled my feet slightly with each step, feeling for any changes in traction, and the way my shoes were sliding on that slick surface started up a sickening feeling in my belly."

The details he provides about the logistics of his criminal undertakings are also fascinating. He writes about picking locks, for example, and "prospecting" for leads and negotiating with fences. And I love the book's prose style, which is straightforward and lucid.

One of course has qualms about what Mason did, not only to his victims but even more so to his family. But the author has qualms too. His book is a thoughtful, very honest consideration of the life he's led, and clearly the product of a great deal of painful introspection. Nor does Mason make any excuses for his actions: he's one of the bad guys, and he says as much. But he could have been worse.

Confessions drags a bit in its final chapters, but that's the only negative in an otherwise extraordinary book. This one reminds me of how rewarding a great piece of nonfiction can be.

See an interview with Bill Mason here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=611971n.

Comments

1.

This sounds fascinating. Yet another one to add to the oh-so-bloated TBR list!

2.

Enjoy! It really was great.

3.

Great article, I can't wait to read more.

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