The Barefoot Bandit

When Bob Rivers's Cessna was stolen and crashed in a rare instance of airplane piracy, the Seattle radio personality had the same thought as local authorities: drug runners had used, abused, and discarded the plane; case closed. To their astonishment, they later learned that the culprit in the 2008 heist was actually seventeen-year-old Colton Harris-Moore, a poor, neglected, troubled kid who'd had no formal flight training. This was the first time Colt had flown a plane, and yet it wouldn't be the last. He was in the midst of a years-long crime spree -- boosting cars, boats, identities, airplanes, and lots of food. The pattern of his thieving centered on the coastal islands of the state of Washington, where Bob Friel lives.


Which meant Friel had a front-row seat to the increasingly brazen thefts of the "barefoot bandit," so named because Colt had a penchant for going shoeless. Capitalizing on the trusting nature of island residents, many of whom wouldn't lock their doors, Colt often holed up in vacant vacation homes. Whenever authorities closed in, he would take to the woods and call on his time-tested survival skills. This cat-and-mouse game was infuriating to victims and authorities, and eventually drew the attention and involvement of the FBI and Homeland Security, thanks largely to his ongoing interest in stealing airplanes.


But Colt's brazen ways -- repeatedly swiping bicycles from the police station lockup, for example -- also engendered respect and admiration in certain circles. It helped that his were nonviolent crimes. "Colt's combination of twenty-first century tech savviness and nineteenth-century outlaw cojones came together to create a remarkably effective criminal." Thanks to Facebook fan clubs, he quickly became a modern-day John Dillinger. Like Dillinger, Colt's tale ended in a hail of gunfire. In Colt's case, though, all the bullets missed. Rightly or wrongly, that unbelievable luck adds just another layer of myth to a minor -- but no less fascinating -- entry in the annals of American crime.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."