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Engaging, extravagant account of life on the wrong side of the law that leaves readers to decide how much to like the...

Now nearly old enough to receive Social Security and in a mellow mood, a once-notorious cat burglar reveals how he filched from the rich and famous.

Mason was no Robin Hood; he kept what he stole. With evident aid from veteran thriller writer Gruenfeld (The Street, 2001, etc.), he details the mechanics of his most exciting jewelry heists. His m.o. included prospecting the society pages for those who had it and flaunted it, carefully casing their homes, and planning for every contingency he could think of. He never confronted a victim, never carried a weapon, and delayed fencing the loot. He worked alone, though the papers usually reported his daring robberies as the work of gangs. In his day, the one-man gang lifted serious bling-bling from notables like Mrs. Armand Hammer, Robert Goulet, and a Mafioso. He nabbed Johnny Weismuller’s Olympic medal and sent it back. He hit Phyllis Diller twice. Though he mingled with the upper crust, clearly the savvy gonif consorted more with criminal toughs than society toffs. Supplementing his recreations of the thrill of the heist, Mason also offers abundant info on the feckless underworld life, sharp looks at lawyers and the criminal-justice system from arrest through prison to parole, and a couple of tips on thwarting break-ins. While burglary was his avocation, this thief had a decent day job. Even as he was nabbed and shipped to jail, he remained a regular family man. Eventually, his wife divorced him. A happy liaison with an heiress followed. As Mason reports, the police despised him, but his families loved him. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it, but the charm of it all evaporates a bit over time, as the narrative begins to sound like a repentant confession from atop a bar stool.

Engaging, extravagant account of life on the wrong side of the law that leaves readers to decide how much to like the rogue—and how much to believe him. (Photo insert, not seen)

Pub Date: April 20, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-50839-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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