This morning I started reading Geoff Manaugh's A Burglar's Guide to the City:
At the core of A Burglar's Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it.
I've been reading Geoff Manaugh's blog, BLDGBLOG, for years now so I was pretty sure that I'd enjoy his book. So far he's exceeded my expectations. One of the points Manaugh makes early on is that despite the title, it's not just criminals who pay especially close attention to the built environment in which they operate:
They call the team Tactical Operations, or TacOps, a distributed crew of government-sanctioned burglars—in the best possible use of that word, masters of architecture, commanders of built space—who have, over decades, developed all-but-limitless techniques for obtaining covert entry into the built environment. They anesthetize dogs, feed cats, walk around on twelve-foot stilts to install bugs in someone's ceiling tiles, and buy the exact same make and model of, say, a desk lamp that a target might also own, to replace even the most mundane appliances with secretly miked federal surrogates. They're like rogue shoppers duplicating your every move.
Surely this is a TV drama series just waiting to happen.
One more thing: I don't suppose that Manaugh's book is high profile enough that it'll get a lot of press coverage here in the UK, but there's a little part of me that really hopes that someone at the Daily Mail notices it. Why? Mostly because I strongly suspect that if notoriously angry Mail editor Paul Dacre read this passage from Manaugh's introduction he'd have a stroke at the sheer wrongness of the attitude described (emphasis added):
Think of the man in Dallas, Texas, who wasn't happy with what he found inside one building, so he broke through a wall of Sheetrock to rob the cash register next door. It became a regular thing for him, a reliable gig: he returned again and again to tunnel from one shop to the other, compulsively. The store's owners later complained to police that the same man had "broken through the same wall at the store four other times since the summer," stealing more than $20,000 from the shop in months. It was, from the burglar's perspective, easy money. At this rate, from one shop alone, he could pull in $60,000 a year. If the only thing standing between him and the middle class was a few pieces of Sheetrock, why not? What's the point of work when you can just pop through a wall at 3:00 a.m. to collect your pay?
For the record, I had Paul Dacre on my mind this morning because he featured heavily in the book I finished re-reading just before I started Manaugh's latest, Nick Davies' Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. Davies relates a wonderful tale about how Dacre conducted himself back when Dacre was the paper's News Editor:
The idea of a stable family is somewhere close to the heart of Mail values. This means, for example, that women who choose work rather than child-rearing can become targets for Paul Dacre's aggression, although there is a delightful story about Dacre coming unstuck on this. In a Sunday Telegraph feature about the former Mail editor, David English, Vicki Woods recalled a morning conference at the Mail when she was editor of the Femail pages and Dacre was still the news editor: 'One morning, Paul Dacre bossily said that the news-desk had got a fabulous story that should be handled by the Femail editor. I bridled on cue. "Apparently," said Paul, "the country is losing billions of pounds every year because women are turning up an hour or two late for work. There's a very serious survey been done, and I think there's a serious point to make." Oh, yeah? Why are they late to work? "Well, apparently they're staying late in bed because (cough) they're having sex in the mornings." It was a gift. I said: "So who are they having sex with? Each other?" And David shouted, "Bang to rights, Mr Dacre!"'