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Thieves of Book Row: New York's Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped Itby Travis Mcdade
Synopses & Reviews
No one had ever tried a caper like this before. The goods were kept in a secure room under constant scrutiny, deep inside a crowded building with guards at the exits. The team picked for the job included two old hands known only as Paul and Swede, but all depended on a fresh face, a kid from Pinetown, North Carolina. In the Depression, some fellows were willing to try anything--even a heist in the rare book room of the New York Public Library.
In Thieves of Book Row, Travis McDade tells the gripping tale of the worst book-theft ring in American history, and the intrepid detective who brought it down. Author of The Book Thief and a curator of rare books, McDade transforms painstaking research into a rich portrait of Manhattan's Book Row in the 1920s and '30s, where organized crime met America's cultural treasures in dark and crowded shops along gritty Fourth Avenue. Dealers such as Harry Gold, a tough native of the Lower East Side, became experts in recognizing the value of books and recruiting a pool of thieves to steal them--many of them unemployed men who drifted up the Bowery or huddled around fires in Central Park's shantytowns. When Paul and Swede brought a new recruit into his shop, Gold trained him for the biggest score yet: a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. Gold's recruit cased the rare-book room for weeks, searching for a weakness. When he found one, he struck, leading to a breathtaking game of wits between Gold and NYPL special investigator G. William Bergquist.
Both a fast-paced, true-life thriller, Thieves of Book Row provides a fascinating look at the history of crime and literary culture.
"McDade, a curator of rare books and author of a tome on notorious 1990s book bandit Daniel Spiegelman (The Book Thief), is well positioned to bring to life a forgotten part of New York City history. His tale begins in the 1930s, during the heyday of the city's legendary Book Row on Fourth Avenue, a series of six blocks dominated by used book stores: 'If it was printed, it could be found there, somewhere.' Sounds like a bibliophile's heaven, but not all of the dealers took care to ensure the ethical provenance of what they proffered. 'Bookleggers' or 'Fourth Avenue pirates' actively colluded in cheating their customers, some going so far as to engage in the practice of 'sophisticating,' a wonderfully self-serving portmanteau meaning to splice together damaged first printings with mint-condition later editions to create a 'better' book. Still, those misdeeds paled in comparison with the organized theft rings whose predations on the New York Public Library make up the focus of this definitive history. McDade isn't always able to capitalize on the story's innate drama, but a fantastically colorful cast of characters and rich period detail will hook book lovers and historians of N.Y.C. 6 b&w halftones. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Travis McDade is the author of The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman and the curator of rare books at the University of Illinois College of Law. He teaches a class at Illinois called "Rare Books, Crime and Punishment."
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Antics of the Leading Industrials
Chapter 2: The Accumulated Wisdom
Chapter 3: A Purloined Poe
Chapter 4: Scholarship and Investigation
Chapter 5: The Boston Scene
Chapter 6: Someone Qualified as a Bookman
Chapter 7: The People of the State of New York and their Dignity
Chapter 8: That's the End of the Rare Book
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