This post is also available in: العربية

She looked like a distinguished member of the upper classes, with an air of money and glamour about her.  She did not look out of place in a Cartier store in Paris or Monaco.  Dubai would have suited her perfectly.  She carried herself in the right way, span believable stories to staff in jewellery shops around the world (once saying she had come into some money and wanted to buy herself a present) and thus had them relaxing in front of her, happily displaying several items on the counter.

She would try them on and take them off, and try another, all the time talking.  When she had decided that nothing was for her she would help return them, often adding ‘Oh, and don’t forget this one’, and then she would leave the shop, the perfect polite customer.

But it was an act for she often had another item they had missed in her pocket, or even on her hand.  Doris Payne became ‘the world’s most notorious jewel thief’ and is believed to have stolen gems worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a sixty-year ‘career’.  Now, with the help of US writer, academic and arts therapist Zelda Lockhart, she has told her own story in Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief.

Born into poverty in the southern states of the US, with an abusive father who mistreated her mother, she resolved that she would never be under the thumb of any man.  She stole her first piece of jewellery at the age of 16, giving the money to her mother so that she could escape.  Payne would go on to become a career jewel thief stealing items in Milan, Paris, New York, London, Monte Carlo and Tokyo.  Now, as well as the book, a movie of her life is being made starring Avengers star Tessa Thompson.

Assistant editor Katie Packer acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Janice Suguitan at HarperCollinsUS.   According to the publisher, the memoir tells the story of “a woman who defied society’s prejudices and norms to carve her own path, stealing precious gems so that she could live out her dreams”.

The synopsis reads: “Using her Southern charm, quick wit, and light fingers as her tools, Doris began shoplifting small pieces of jewellery from local stores. Over the course of six decades, her talents grew with each heist and she became an expert world-class jewel thief. Each time she was caught, she managed to escape a life in prison [though she served at least five years], and her life continued to be full of wild escapades. Today, at 88, Doris, is as bold and vibrant as ever.  She lives in Atlanta, and is celebrated for her glamorous legacy. She sums up her adventurous career best: ‘It beat being a teacher or a maid.’”

Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief will be published as a trade paperback on 12 September alongside the US publisher.  Arabic rights are still available and are being handled by Kate Falkoff, Rights Associate, at HarperCollins in New York.