In the tradition of The Orchid Thief , a compelling narrative set within the strange and genteel world of rare-book collecting: the true story of an infamous book thief, his victims, and the man determined to catch him. Rare-book theft is even more widespread than fine-art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit. John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. In an attempt to understand him better, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged herself into the world of book lust and discovered just how dangerous it can be. Gilkey is an obsessed, unrepentant book thief who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books from book fairs, stores, and libraries around the country. Ken Sanders is the self-appointed 'bibliodick' (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch him. Bartlett befriended both outlandish characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she has woven this entertaining cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes, where he stashed the loot, and how Sanders ultimately caught him but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, Bartlett looks at the history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages, to examine the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love.
As the new millennium got underway, John Gilkey began to steal thousands of dollars worth of irreplaceable rare and valuable books from libraries, museums, and dealers across the U.S. Brought up in a household that collected books as ardently as it committed petty crimes, Gilkey began his acquisitions by any means possible. As Bartlett discovers, book theft is a widespread crime that respects no borders. Moreover, the rare-book business has always had more than a whiff of impropriety, if not actual dishonesty, about it. Bartlett establishes links with Gilkey, whose crimes have landed him in prison and who is apparently eager to have his exploits immortalized in print. She also encounters Ken Sanders, a book dealer obsessed with apprehending Gilkey. This is a grand morality tale in which books as objects become perversely more important than the ideas contained within.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2009 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review
In the late 1990s, John Gilkey stole his way through a significant number of expensive antiquarian book collections. Ken Sanders, a book collector and security chair for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, noticed the pattern of thefts and began pursuing Gilkey, whose obsession with his precious old books led him to commit a flurry of other crimes-stealing credit cards and forging checks. Bartlett opens up the quirky world of book collecting fanatics with respect but occasionally too much adulation-a perspective that Judith Brackley is guilty of in her more effusive moments. But on the whole, Brackley's enthusiasm is welcome; she excels when exploring the minutiae and arcana of the book collecting subculture and executes the male voices well, with a clear distinction and depth. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, July 27). (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Review
In her first book, freelance writer Bartlett lifts the veil on the methods of John Charles Gilkey, a thief whose prey of choice was rare books (between 1999 and 2003 he stole approximately $100,000 worth of books from dealers nationwide). Equally fascinating is Gilkey's pursuer, Ken Sanders, a rare-books dealer-turned-amateur detective. Listeners are drawn into the convoluted mind of the thief, the determination of the dealer, and the author's own ambivalence as she becomes involved with both figures and begins to question her journalistic impartiality. Narrator Judith Brackley, who has a long career as a voice artist, brings the appropriate degree of calm and matter-of-fact narration to this engaging material. For all book lovers, book collectors, and readers of true crime. [The Riverhead hc was an LJ Best Book of 2009.-Ed.]-J. Sara Paulk, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Cty. Lib., GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Allison Hoover Bartlett's writing has appeared in the New York Times , the Washington Post , the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine , and other publications. Her original article on John Gilkey was included in The Best American Crime Reporting 2007 .