I read a book recently called The Art of the Heist. It’s an autobiography/memoir written by Myles J. Connor Jr. He was assisted in writing the book by Jenny Siler.
The title probably gives a pretty good hint that Connor is a career thief. He made his living robbing banks and he had a side hobby of stealing valuable art pieces.
The book starts off by describing a museum robbery that occurred while Connor was in jail. The police blamed Connor for the robbery and as he explains later on, he had given advice to the people that committed the crime on how to rob the museum.
The story shifts next to Connor’s failed jailbreak from the first time he was incarcerated. Finally, after all that, it begins telling his story in chronological order, from his first robbery to his eventual third incarceration decades later for dealing drugs.
The stories of how he committed his robberies are interesting. Most of the time it was a combination of inside knowledge and poor security on the part of the place he was robbing.
Connor talks about how he’d learn a museum’s security by posing as a donator to the museum. He’d get a tour of the facility including places that normal visitors don’t get to see. He’d then come back a few weeks later at night, sneak through a window, and take whatever he wanted.
What makes the story so interesting is that you start rooting for Connor.
Several times Connor is accused of crimes that he didn’t commit and is put on trial. He deserves to go to jail, but for different reasons than those he is accused of. The writing made me share in his frustration of being falsely accused.
It’s also very clear that Connor is an intelligent person who could’ve done a lot of good things if he hadn’t been so attracted to stealing things.
His SAT scores are amazing, he’s smart enough to organize a criminal gang for years without being caught, and he’s smart enough to have a college-educated girlfriend who is aware of his crimes, but never has enough information that she can testify against him.
There’s some stuff about how criminals act that comes up in the book that I wouldn’t get to see in my daily life. Connor talks about honor amongst criminals. He has a code for how people act when they’re part of his gang. Two of his members break that code and he almost kills them. Criminals operate outside of the law, but they still enforce rules upon themselves to maintain some amount of order.
Connor also discusses his perpetual battle with the police. I think he views the police and the government as “just the crime gang in charge of everyone else.”
When the cops are unable to find enough evidence to arrest Connor for crimes that he did commit they start building cases to connect him to crimes he was only loosely involved in.
The false cases bring to light what might be a common practice in the judicial system. The State’s Attorney comes up to a criminal and says something along the lines of, “Confess to your crime and testify that this other guy I want to arrest committed a similar crime and I’ll cut your prison sentence in half.”
If the other guy didn’t commit that crime, there’s still a heavy incentive for the first criminal to lie and say he did. That’s exactly what happens to Connor on more than one occasion.
I’d recommend Art of the Heist for anyone who likes thriller novels or who has always wondered how criminals think. For people interested in a dramatic story, I should say that there were parts of the book where I had to put it down for several days before I was ready to read it again as the material was so intense.
I looked up Connor to see what he’s doing now that he’s out of prison. Apparently he was arrested in 2012 for petty theft of a cellphone. This was apparently part of a drug deal gone bad, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of that. Even at over 70 years old he is still a career criminal because, as he says in is book, “he enjoys it.”