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In the spring of 1994, Daniel Spiegelman shinnied up an abandoned book lift in Columbia University's Butler Library, dismantled a wall, stole books, reassembled the wall, and snuck back down the shaft. Over a three-month period he did this more than a dozen times. He eventually escaped to Europe with roughly $1.8 million in rare books, letters and manuscripts. When he was caught in the Netherlands, he tried to avoid extradition to the U.S. by telling the Dutch authorities he was a financier of the Oklahoma City bombing--knowing they wouldn't extradite someone facing the death penalty. Eventually, the FBI got him back to New York, where he finally stood trial for his crimes. Including a retelling of the crimes, dialogue from the court transcripts, and explanations of the legal consequences and intricacies, McDade recounts all the sordid elements of this true crime caper in vivid detail.

In the spring of 1994, Daniel Spiegelman shinnied up an abandoned book lift in Columbia University's Butler Library, dismantled a wall, stole books, reassembled the wall, and snuck back down the shaft. Over a three-month period he did this more than a dozen times. He eventually escaped to Europe with roughly $1.8 million in rare books, letters and manuscripts. When he was caught in the Netherlands, he tried to avoid extradition to the U.S. by telling the Dutch authorities he was a financier of the Oklahoma City bombing-- knowing they wouldn't extradite someone facing the death penalty. Eventually, the FBI got him back to New York, where he finally stood trial for his crimes.

Four years, four attorneys, one determined librarian, numerous court appearances, and one guilty plea after the initial crime took place, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York meted out a sentence that ran counter to the plea agreement, nearly doubling the ordinary sentence for a crime of that magnitude. In so doing, he created a new justification for departure from Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Basing his decision on the potential harm inflicted on society as a whole by the theft of rare and unique elements of our cultural heritage, Judge Kaplan redefined the value of such rare items and justified his sentencing by determining the value to be beyond the monetary realm. McDade recounts all the sordid elements of this true-crime caper in vivid detail, presenting readers with a retelling of the crimes, dialogue from the court transcripts, and explanations of the legal consequences and intricacies. In addition to the significant, overall legal themes, The Book Thief describes two prison escape attempts, one suicide attempt, a jailed defense lawyer, and the aftermath of this unique and interesting case.

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.
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