Synopses & Reviews
Born in the squalid Irish slums of Brooklyn, in the first year of the twentieth century, Willie Sutton came of age at a time when banks were out of control. If they weren't taking brazen risks, causing millions to lose their jobs and homes, they were shamelessly seeking bailouts. Trapped in a cycle of bank panics, depressions and soaring unemployment, Sutton saw only one way out, only one way to win the girl of his dreams.
So began the career of America's most successful bank robber. Over three decades Sutton became so good at breaking into banks, and such a master at breaking out of prisons, police called him one of the most dangerous men in New York, and the FBI put him on its first-ever Most Wanted List.
But the public rooted for Sutton. He never fired a shot, after all, and his victims were merely those bloodsucking banks. When he was finally caught for good in 1952, crowds surrounded the jail and chanted his name.
Blending vast research with vivid imagination, Pulitzer Prize-winner J.R. Moehringer brings Willie Sutton blazing back to life. In Moehringer's retelling, it was more than need or rage at society that drove Sutton. It was one unforgettable woman. In all Sutton's crimes and confinements, his first love (and first accomplice) was never far from his thoughts. And when Sutton finally walked free — a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve, 1969 — he immediately set out to find her.
Poignant, comic, fast-paced and fact-studded, Sutton tells a story of economic pain that feels eerily modern, while unfolding a story of doomed love, which is forever timeless.
"Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing in 2000, brings infamous bank robber Willie 'The Actor' Sutton to life in his inventive debut novel (after the memoir The Tender Bar). True to history, the ailing 68-year-old Sutton was released from prison on Christmas Eve 1969 and spent the following day with a reporter. Though the journalist's actual take on that day revealed little, Moehringer uses the excursion as an entree into Sutton's dramatic life. The ex-con revisits old haunts, recalls successful and failed heists, and reminisces about the woman he sought always to impress. Alternating between Christmas Day and Sutton's earlier years, Moehringer stays in the present tense, making the action immediate, but the shifts in time easy to miss. Nevertheless, he paints a mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable man: a talented thief, an aspiring novelist, and a student of the classics ('Dante, Plato, Shakespeare, Freud') even in prison, where he spent half his life. The author's eye for detail and sense of place make every stop on Sutton's internal and external journeys resonate from smoking a Chesterfield to Sutton's first sight of the moon as a free man, every scene is saturated with life. Agent: Mort Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"J.R. Moehringer is a first-rate writer. In Willie Sutton, the greatest bank-robber of all time, thinker and lover, escape artist extraordinaire, he has found an historical subject equal to his vivid imagination, gimlet journalistic eye, and pitch-perfect ear for dialogue. The result is a terrific first novel by turns suspenseful, funny, romantic, and sad — in short, a book you won't be able to put down." John Burnham Schwartz, author of Reservation Road and The Commoner
About the Author
J.R. Moehringer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2000, is a former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Moehringer is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Tender Bar and Sutton and coauthor of Open by Andre Agassi.