A good read (Oct. 30)

by Debbie Norrell, Courier Lifestyles Editor

You never know where you are going to find your next good book to read. I remember when I used to interview book authors on my radio talk show. Most of the books were worth reading and I enjoyed endorsing the book and supporting the writers.

A few weeks ago I was sitting next to a friend at a brunch event and somehow our conversation led to the notorious African American jewel thief Doris Payne. She asked me if I had read the book “Diamond Doris.” I had heard about her in the news but never read the book or viewed the documentary “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” After the brunch the book arrived in my mailbox. I was ecstatic. Thank you, Yvonne Durham.

Payne was born in the segregated coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, but the beautiful clothes, jewels and lifestyles that she saw in shiny magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country fascinated her. She dreamed of a life away from the abuse of her father who worked in the coal mines and abused her mother and siblings. It’s funny how one incident can change the direction of someone’s life. Doris Payne had developed a good friendship with a White storekeeper and one day he threw her out when a White customer arrived, Payne vowed that neither race nor gender would hold her back. She was going to control her own life and make her own money. She began a life of shoplifting small pieces of jewelry from local stores and then branched out to states surrounding West Virginia and yes, she even came to Pittsburgh’s diamond area and successfully “lifted” some diamonds. Over the course of 60 years Payne grew her talents with each heist. As a world-class expert jewel thief she daringly pulled off numerous diamond robberies, using nuns and various ruses to help her avoid arrest while her Jewish boyfriend fenced the stolen gems. As of December 2018, Payne was still alive and living in Atlanta.

The book is a quick and enjoyable read. I recommend it. Now I will get busy locating the documentary. Next on my reading list is “Smoketown.” I know I am way behind in reading this treasure about Black Pittsburgh from the 1920s to 1950s. From what I have read so far the Pittsburgh Courier is referred to often in “Smoketown.” I hope it is as fascinating as “Diamond Doris.”

I have a stack of books that have never been touched and now that I have more free time I need to read more and “crush less candy.” If you want to recommend a book for me I would love that. I like exciting true stories, suspense and a good murder mystery. Please, no science fiction. As a child I was a big Nancy Drew fan and in later years Lawrence Sanders so that should tell you what I enjoy.

Books make great gifts, try Half Price Books for great prices and a good selection of books and DVD’s.

(Email Debbie at debbienorrell@aol.com.)


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