on May 27, 2005
David Maurer was primarily interested in the language of the pickpocket subculture ("subculture" is a sociological term meaning any culture within a larger culture; I point this out because some readers assume it to be a disparaging term), but he realized that in order to make sense of the pickpocket's argot, he would have to explain the secret society of these unusually specialized criminals. The anecdotes and quotations from interviews with actual pickpockets with which Maurer illustrates his book are fascinating. The reader will learn not only how pickpockets speak but also how they act and think and how they stand with regard to other criminals.
My biggest complaint is that there is no index or glossary to help the reader remember the special words used by the subjects of Maurer's study. This means that if you forget what a word means, you will be puzzled the next time Maurer uses it without defining it again. If I were to read it again (which I mean to do some day), I would keep a pad handy in which to write down each term and the page on which it is introduced so I could have my own glossary/index.
Another problem is that the book was written in the 1950s. I know that at least some pickpockets were operating more or less as described in this book up until the late 1970s, but, if you're like me, the book will leave you wondering whether the subculture of these criminals, as described by Maurer, has survived into the early 21st century.
on March 10, 2003
Wonderful guide and background to poking in the late 50's. This book talks about the philosophy of pickpockets, the argot used, as well as social habits and jargon tendencies. Great book for anyone interested in pickpocketing or anyone who enjoys the reading of thieves.
on November 4, 2008
Man oh man. This is the go to resource for all things pickpocketing. It covers everything--philosophy, technique, language, it's cultural place in the criminal world--everything.
Now there are times when the text is a little dry, but the purpose here is not to entertain but rather to inform. This goal is certainly accomplished. I love all Maurer's work. I will also recommend Robert Bresson's amazing film, Pickpocket. It's a straight up gas and groove daddy.