Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Review: "A Burglar's Guide to the City" by Geoff Manuagh
After reading a book as intensive, interesting and beguiling as Geoff Manaugh’s A Burglar’s Guide to the City, you will be forgiven if you check to see if your front door is locked twice or even three times before you leave the house. This is an affecting book to say the least, putting us in the shoes of not only criminals, who the author sees as sort of rogue architects, but also the victim of break ins as well which, as described accurately (in my opinion) is second only to rape in terms of the emotional damage it can cause. If you have experienced a break in and have had valuables stolen, which I am lucky enough to not have experienced yet, it is the shattering of trust and routine that can turn someone into a mess. But I am just taking now about the feelings this book produced in me and not about the book itself. While calling this a book about the history of burglary is somewhat accurate, it is also simplistic. At the heart of this book is something a bit more grand and profound. Broken down into large chapters, covering every aspect you can think of when it comes to burglary , it makes the case, very successfully I might add, that crime, specially the crime in the title, is not only facilitated what type of city you live in, but is a natural byproduct of its existence. This is a really cool book, and while I am not used to describing nonfiction books in my review, I guess I will treat this as a short story collection and pull out a few tidbits that impressed me, made me think or simply made me laugh. After an introduction, which chronicles the life of nineteenth century bank robber George Leonidas Leslie, whose heist techniques we still see in today’s movies, the book talks about what a city’s layout says about the crimes in the area and goes into detail about the city of Los Angles. For instance, the reason for helicopter surveillance being such an important part of LA policing is due to the city’s vastness and many tucked away corners where criminals can disappear, similar to the reason behind London’s many surveillance cameras being the city’s density. In the same chapter, like in many others, Manaugh goes into great detail on certain crimes, one being the robberies committed by the Hole in the Ground Gang of Los Angles, who used the creek system hidden beneath LA streets to drill holes up through banks and escape through makeshift tunnels on ATV’s without ever being caught. The book also goes in depth on what constitutes burglary, which is different from robbery, the tools of picking a lock, which a lot are available online and why Die Hard is a masterpiece of architectural indirection. I have not begun to scratch the surface of all that lies within this book, its many nooks and crannies that are hiding in plain sight. For all of it, you’ll have to break in and find it yourself.