The problem was that he felt the world owed him the books. If a rare or antiquarian book dealer had many books then he thought that the book dealer wouldn't miss a few and that he should have them. John Gilkey was able to acquire these books because he worked in the men's department at Sak's Fifth Avenue at a time when credit card receipts still printed the entire credit card number on the receipt. He stole copies of these receipts from the store and used them later to purchase books, rent hotel room, airplane flights, etc. He flew all over to purchase books from the best rare and antiquarian book stores around.
But then there is Ken Sanders who was the Security Chair for the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. It was his job to deal with the thefts of books from all of the dealers that were members of the ABAA. Reports of similar thefts began to trickle in and Ken, not knowing anything about how to be a Security officer or how to deal with the thefts, rose to the occasion and eventually caught Gilkey with the help of some law enforcement types that originally didn't think much about the theft of a single book. But when the theft of a single book became dozens of books and hundreds of thousands of dollars they started to listen to Ken Sanders.
Bartlett writes a fast-paced and easy to read crime drama about John Gilkey and Ken Sanders via extensive interviews with both the thief and Sanders. Since Bartlett interviewed Gilkey long after the crimes had taken place - and after he had spent his time in jail, he was extremely forth-coming about many of the details of his life, his crimes and how he accomplished them. He also gives an in-depth view into his psyche and why he loves these books so much.
Throughout the book, Bartlett explores book collecting as a hobby, why people do it and why some people have gone to the extreme - like Gilkey - and stolen the books they so desired. As a book collector myself, I found this book to be fascinating on numerous levels: it gave me a view into antiquarian and rare book dealers - a group of people I don't have much dealing with since I don't buy books in the thousands of dollars range, I increased my knowledge a little about book collecting in general and I learned that even though I have lusted and salivated and drooled over books I couldn't afford, I learned once and for all, I could never be a Gilkey. For that knowledge, I am thankful.