I have mixed feelings about this 2005 book. I was amped to read it because I love any story (true or not) about jewel heists. I went into it hoping I’d find out all sorts of juicy details about how jewel thieves operate and what happens to the jewels AFTER the heist. It’s not like a thief can walk into Jareds and receive money for stolen goods. And while the book did provide some of what I was after, Bill Mason (our thief and author) focused too much on his prison time and hanging out with his drunk lawyers DURING his trials.
Bill is a big talker and he is proud of his heists. And he should be. In CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF we get the backstory on his biggest heists. He fancies himself as possibly the country’s greatest jewel thief. He may well be. But he is severely missing a moral compass in describing his escapades.
Phyllis Diller, Armand Hammer, Bob Hope and Robert Goulet were a few of his victims. In his mind this was okay because they had so much money (and insurance) they could easily replace the items, eh?
One would not expect the country’s best jewel thief to have scruples, so it wasn’t a big surprise. Many times Bill tried to rationalize his illegal activities. He didn’t really need the money, but it was the planning of each heist that got his motor running.
Even though he had a wife and three kids, the siren call of the jewels got him every single time.
The book details his heists which occurred mostly from the 60s to the 80s. He was in jail off and on during those years. He was followed a LOT by the FBI and local police departments. And for that he was proud.
Yet, he could not understand WHY they were so focused on him when there were actual crimes, like murders, being committed. It never really sunk in for him that his activities were illegal and when he was brought in for questioning he always found a way to prove the cops wrong.
I did learn that lock companies are idiots. A huge lock company (that I won’t name) would mail him the keys to entire hotels when he would give the lock numbers on hotel letterhead. They literally gave him the keys to the jewels. He pointed out how people take for granted the smallest things like having the smarts to lock their balcony doors.
I suppose my beef with Bill is his wife was always left to cleanup his mess with the feds, the cops, their friends, their neighbors … and meanwhile Bill was stealing gems and other women’s hearts.
He also had a knack for hanging out with people who he admits were bad news, he knew from the start they were bad news and yet he’d hang out with them anyway. Even though he was always on parole and being followed.
However, I did find his sense of humor fun. I appreciated that he did not take anything from Carol Channing because he thought she “was too nice to steal from.”
Bill, who almost always worked alone, talks a lot about his prison time and how terrible it was for him, but he’d get out and go right back to plotting more thefts. He also had terrible tastes in lawyers. Alas, CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF was a hoot.
I rate CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF three out of five stars.