According to the back inside flap of A License To Steal, author Mary Jane Robinson has written more than seventy-five personal histories over the past twenty years.
It further mentions “that remaining true to the record, she succeeds in preserving the voice and integrity of each individual as the stories of their lives unfold, finding meaning in every chapter.”
In A License To Steal Robinson together with co-author Walter T. Shaw admirably deliver all of these elements and more as they narrate the story of Shaw’s life as a master jewellery thief and his father Walter Shaw Sr.’s life as ingenious inventor who was once called the ‘Edison of the underworld.’
As the story unfolds, it is pointed out that it is not a tale about the old Mafia or “wise guy” days. It is rather a story that is intertwined about a father and a son and what made the son become a germ, a mutant and a monster notwithstanding that he came from such a gifted human being as his father.
Walter Shaw Sr. invented and held patents for the speaker phone, the alert system in Alaska that was installed for the security of the USA, the hot line between Washington and Moscow or sometimes called the “red phone,’ call forwarding, conferencing calling, and voice recognition. Unfortunately, Shaw Sr. was never given the recognition he deserved and furthermore he had been shafted by his employer Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company where he had worked as an equipment engineer in their lab. Furthermore, had Shaw Sr. being able to protect his patents or if he had met up with legitimate investors, he might not have ended up the way he did, penniless and unrecognized for his brilliance.
As we are informed, during his off time Shaw Sr. would experiment with all kinds of ideas and he always maintained that if he could draw something he could make it. One of his experiments led to the invention of the speaker phone and when he presented this invention to the senior executives of Southern Bell, they were flabbergasted and asked him to sign a preposterous contract with them that would have him give away all of his past, present, and future rights to all of his inventions made on their time as well as his own. He declined the offer and quit his job, however, on leaving he was informed by Bell Southern that he shouldn’t try to hook up the speaker phone as Southern Bell would never approve of it being hooked up to their lines.
After several years of bouncing around from one venture to another and being treated badly by corporate America, Shaw Sr. met Sylvester Glazer, a jeweller with connections to the Mafia. Glazer introduced Shaw Sr. to Archie Gianunzio, an important Mafioso, and as we read, it was this association with Gianunzio that ultimately led Shaw Sr. and his son Walter to their downward spiral into lives of crime.
Shaw Sr. was a very naïve and trusting person and he didn’t understand the repercussions in being associated with the Mafia. All he was concerned about was putting food on the table for his wife and children. He never aspired to live like members of the underworld nor did he ever adopt their lifestyle.
However, sadly, his best work and one that led to his association with the “wise guys” was the “black box,” a tool that could be attached to a telephone in such a way that it would not register as a toll charge but would show a busy signal. In other words, it would be possible to make long distance calls without the telephone company knowing and without been charged or paying taxes to the government. It was named the “black box” because it was encased in a black Plexiglass case. It was directly and indirectly that this “black box” ultimately led Shaw Sr. and his son Walter into horrendous lives of crime, prison time, poverty, dysfunctional families, social outcasts and many other tragedies.
Shaw Sr. sold the Mafia other inventions that helped them in committing all kinds of crimes and although he was aware of the illegality of what they were doing, it was the money that talked to him due to the fact that before associating with them, he was broke.
A License To Steal is a wrenching narrative skilfully providing us with numerous insights into the love and deep bonds existing between a father and a son and the necessity of forgiveness. It is an intensely moving portrait of two individuals who perhaps would have turned out quite differently if they had just one good break in life.
With its down-to-earth writing and painful honesty, Robinson and Shaw have crafted a narrative that is a sincere and stimulating exploration of the darker corners of the world that may be foreign to most of us.Without doubt, A License To Steal is a fascinating yet heartbreaking read that will keep your interest until the last page.
The above review was contributed by: The Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com,Norm Goldman, B.A. LL.L,Retired Title Attorney: Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, the couple meld Norm's words with Lily's art. To check out their travel site click on Sketchandtravel.comClick here to view Norm’s Reviews & Interviews.