Format Hardcover
Publication Date 04/09/24
ISBN 9781639366057
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 416

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The King of Diamonds

The Search for the Elusive Texas Jewel Thief

Rena Pederson

The thrilling story of a brazen, uncatchable jewel thief who roamed the homes of Dallas high society—and a window into the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of the Swinging Sixties.

As a string of high profile jewel thefts went unsolved during the Swinging Sixties, the press dubbed the elusive thief "the King of Diamonds" because he eluded police and the FBI for more than a decade.
Like Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief," the King was so bold that he tip-toed into the homes of millionaires while they were watching television, or hosting parties. He hid in their closets. And dared to smoke a cigarette while they were sleeping not far away. Rena Pederson, then a young reporter withUPI, started following the elusive thief while she managed the night desk.

With gymnastic skill, this thief climbed trees or crawled across rooftops to get into sprawling mansions. He took jewels from heiresses, oil kings, corporate CEOs. These were not just some of the richest people in Texas; they were some of the richest people of their time. Scotland Yard and Interpol were on the look-out. But the thief was never caught and the jewels never recovered.

To follow the tracks of the thief, Rena has interviewed more than two hundred people, from veteran cops to strippers. She went to pawn shops, Las Vegas casinos, and a Mafia hangout—and discovered that beneath the glittering façade of Dallas debutante parties was a world of sex trafficking, illegal gambling, and political graft. When one of the leading suspects was found dead in highly unusual circumstances, the story darkened. High society crashed head-first into Mickey Spillane.

The odd psychological aspects of the The King of Diamonds give us different kind of crime story. Detectives were stumped: Why did the thief break into houses when his targets were inside, increasing the risk of being captured? Why did he hide in their closets? Many times, he was so close he could hear their breathing as they slept. As one socialite put it, “It was a very peculiar business.”

Rena Pederson teaches writing at Southern Methodist University. She has written on Burma for the Huffington Post, The Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor.  Pederson was the Editorial Page Editor at the Dallas Morning News, has served on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and is the author of The Lost Apostle and What’s Next?, which was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She is currently a commentator on Dallas Public Radio and lives in Dallas, Texas.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“In classic cop-speak, the bold, agile perp had a practiced M.O., or modus operandi. He was promptly crowned ‘The King of Diamonds.’ That’s also the title of Rena Pederson’s saga of the master thief’s rampage. Deeply researched and fluidly written. It’s quite a yarn.” The Wall Street Journal
"King of Diamonds is an enjoyable read, in large measure because of Pederson's extensive, high-quality research, obtaining compelling info from and about her subjects. Pederson interviewed more than 200 cops, victims and neighbors. The result is as much a sociology study of upper-crust Dallas society as a true crime story, enlivened by her sprightly writing style" The Star Tribune
“Perfect for true-crime lovers who want a story about sinister thefts that aims to uncover the psychological motivations behind some sensational crimes. Award-winning journalist Pederson sets out to find the identity of the King of Diamonds, uncovering well-kept Dallas secrets and answering some of the most puzzling questions. Her investigation is easy to follow as she takes readers down her research rabbit hole of this real-life whodunit and her conclusions.” Library Journal
“This riveting investigation from Pederson probes a series of unsolved Texas jewel thefts from the 1950s and ’60s. With a novelist’s gift for description and a detective’s keen eye for evidence, Pederson considers suspects ranging from gigolos to interior designers and jewelers. It’s a pleasure to watch her cross them off her list one by one until she resurrects a convincing theory that the case’s original investigators were unable to pursue. This is a must-read for any true crime buff.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Dallas has long promoted an image of pious country clubbers with big cars and big hair. But the city also has been home to a groaning underbelly of thieves, hustlers, racketeers, and other assorted felons. With King of Diamonds, Rena Pederson has joined these two worlds, and she has done so with verve, style, and astonishing historical detail. Going back decades, she cracks open a long-forgotten vault of amazing cat-burglar grabs and incredible escapades. When it comes to high-dollar jewelry heists, this book is pure gold." Doug J. Swanson, author of Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker
“A simply riveting whodunit—dramatic, thrilling and sometimes hilarious, as a daring cat burglar in the 1960s outwits the cops and plunders the wealthiest mansions of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Perhaps what’s most amazing is that the story is all true. The veteran journalist Rena Pederson takes us on a wild ride through that now almost forgotten era. After years of research, she also identifies who could have been the King of Diamonds. Pederson has produced a true crime tour de force.” Skip Hollandsworth, author of The Midnight Assassin and executive editor at Texas Monthly
“This book is irresistible, not just because of the waves of suspense and surprise it so expertly surfs, but because it’s such an authoritative summoning of Dallas’s crazy Gilded Age. Rena Pederson is a relentless reporter but such a storyteller that you feel that she’s spinning out this can-you-believe-it tale from a cozy booth at the Cipango Club.” Stephen Harrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Gates of the Alamo, and of Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas
Praise for Rena Pederson

“Writing a biography of a living legend is never easy, especially when the living legend is legendarily inaccessible. A fascinating biography." The Dallas Morning News
"An ambitious and necessary work." The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A riveting story. Complex and sweeping." Booklist, starred review