Mason, Bill 1940-
Mason, Bill 1940-
PERSONAL: Born 1940; married (divorced); children: three.
CAREER: Jewel thief, real estate manager, and author.
(With Lee Gruenfeld) Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief (memoir), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Bill Mason recounts his adventures as a daring and successful burglar in Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, written with Lee Gruenfeld. From the 1960s through the 1980s, Mason stole jewelry and other valuables from victims including singer-actor Robert Goulet, comedian Phyllis Diller, industrialist Armand Hammer, and Olympic swimmer/actor Johnny Weissmuller. Mason, who stole Weissmuller's Olympic gold medal, later returned it. Mason's career haul totaled more than $35 million in valuables. He spent several years running from law enforcement authorities and managed to serve little time in jail, due partly to his lawyers' expertise. Mason decided to tell his story because he had retired from thievery and the statute of limitations on his crimes had expired.
Mason grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, where most of his schoolmates were more affluent than he. As a young adult, however, he entered the real estate business, had some success, started a family, and was leading a middle-class life before he became a criminal. After his first major heist, Mason says, he could not resist trying for more; stealing gave him an "indescribable euphoria." Mason usually worked alone, and he researched his intended victims carefully, finding ways to thwart their elaborate security systems. He was also often lucky, happening upon unlocked windows or doors.
"The most exciting parts of this uneven memoir are when Mason is casing an apartment and when he finally makes entry," commented Stephen J. Lyons in the Chicago Sun-Times. Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Mason's thefts are "recollected in engrossing detail." The reviewer, however, found it hard to sympathize with Mason, when considering the distress his crimes caused for his family. Other critics, while viewing Mason with a bit of skepticism, nevertheless praised his book as well told. Jim Burns, writing in Library Journal, remarked that the story can be "self-serving, but it is still entertaining." A Kirkus Reviews contributor summed up Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief as an "engaging, extravagant ac-count 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."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mason, Bill, and Lee Gruenfeld, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, Villard Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Chicago Sun-Times, April 18, 2004, Stephen J. Lyons, "Bill Mason, Cat Burglar to the Stars," p. 10.
Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 2004, Gregory Kirschling, "Stealing the Spotlight," p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, p. 119.
Library Journal, February 15, 2004, Jim Burns, review of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, p. 144.
People, April 26, 2004, Bob Meadows, review of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, March 8, 2004, review of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, p. 65.