Writing STEALING MANHATTAN fulfills any true crime writer's dream, capturing an exclusive account of one of the greatest crime stories of the 20th Century.
Having access to information, confessions, and first-person recollections long withheld from public knowledge is a spectacular thrill.
While I realize that STEALING MANHATTAN isn't destined to have the potential socio-political impact of the recent discovery of Muhammad's actual covenants with Christians and Jews—documents that proclaim that any act of terrorism or violence against Jews or Christians is a complete violation of Islam and that Muslims are to protect Christians and Jews from anything that would sadden them or cause discomfort—I also know that the material and relationships detailed in STEALING MANHATTAN give us invaluable honest insights to our concepts of greed, justice, integrity, compassion, generosity, and how we as individuals, as family, and as society, deal with trauma and injustice.
The book begins with trauma—a young boy abused by invading Nazis, then as a young adult, abused by Communists, then as an immigrant to America, he finds there are other manifestations of injustice, such as forcing the Jewish merchants in the Diamond District to buy “protection” via “legal” insurance policies.
Our protagonist, Serbian immigrant, and proud American citizen, "Mr. Stan," turned that “legalized protection racket” on its head and came to the rescue of the merchants by having them become over-insured before looting their safes. Their insurance policies paid the full retail value of the stolen inventory within two weeks, transforming a heist—nonviolent, of course—into a true blessing!
Researching and writing was an adventure—suddenly, I was taken into the confidence of those who planned and pulled off the greatest diamond heists, gold heists, and precious gem heists in America, including the 1992 one-billion-dollar mega heist in New York that hit ten jewelry manufacturing firms one right after the other.
The excitement, danger, and drama derive, however, from the family dynamics. Yes, this was a family enterprise: The father, Stan, his lovely wife, Branka, and their son, Pavle (Paul), aka “Punch.” He is nicknamed Punch because he can punch a safe in under 16 seconds.
You have heard of the notorious Pink Panthers, right?
How did the Pink Panthers learn how to do incredible heists? No one is born a world-class criminal traveling the world with multiple passports, speaking five languages fluently, consorting with celebrities, and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous while stealing millions in diamonds, jewels, and precious gems.
Face this simple fact: the notorious Pink Panthers had to be trained by someone somewhere.
That someone was “Punch.”
The somewhere was New York City in the 1990s.
I know Punch. I even know his Mom. I also know who taught him to be a master of gem heists and why he became a diamond thief in the first place.
He became a diamond thief to make his father proud.
His dad was the charming gentleman known in New York as Mr. Stan.
Mr. Stan and his wife, Branka, were respected and admired by the Dupont family, Walter Chrysler, and the powerful New York families who were the real influence brokers in the Big Apple.
Punch’s parents were pals with Joan Crawford, the famous actress. She died tragically while hosting his birthday party in her apartment.
As I mentioned, Punch's family, wealthy and respected members of NYC high society, only looted the vaults of firms fully insured or over-insured. Hence, the old Diamond District joke:
Hey, did you hear about the big heist at my diamond business?
No, when was it?
A week from next Tuesday!
The vast wealth earned by Mr. Stan through wise investments and spectacular good fortune couldn't buy off the residual effect of his childhood traumas at the hand of the Nazis, the torture of the Communists, or the mockery of his being an immigrant to America—a nation of immigrants and a land that he loved.
His tough love treatment of his son, Punch, was traumatic for the youngster, as Stan attempted to mold him into a version of himself. The dynamics of their relationship, the unique nature of Stan and Branka's partnership, and how the admiration of Mr. Stan by John Gotti and other New York City crime figures impacted Stan, Punch, and Branka in their life, lifestyle, and future are all revealed in Vol One of STEALING MANHATTAN.
The story has multiple layers of non-stop adventures, and Punch and I have done everything in our abilities to keep the action, adventure, danger, romance, and daring escapades right in the forefront of your reading experience.
Guess what? That was only Volume One! We are already working on Vol. Two... and as thrilling and entertaining as Vol One is, you ain't seen nothin' yet!