"What Hilary Mantel did for Thomas Cromwell and Paula McLain for Hadley Hemingway . . . Moehringer does for bank robber Willie Sutton" in this fascinating biographical novel of America's most successful bank robber (Newsday).
Willie Sutton was born in the Irish slums of Brooklyn in 1901, and he came of age at a time when banks were out of control. Sutton saw only one way out and only one way to win the girl of his dreams. So began the career of America's most successful bank robber. During three decades Sutton became so good at breaking into banks, the FBI put him on its first-ever Most Wanted List. But the public rooted for the criminal who never fired a shot, and when Sutton was finally caught for good, crowds at the jail chanted his name.
In J.R. Moehringer's retelling, it was more than need or rage that drove Sutton. It was his first love. And when he finally walked free -- a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve, 1969 -- he immediately set out to find her.
"Electrifying." --Booklist (starred)
"Thoroughly absorbing . . . Filled with vibrant and colorful re-creations of not one but several times in the American past." --Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row
"[J.R. Moehringer] has found an historical subject equal to his vivid imagination, gimlet journalistic eye, and pitch-perfect ear for dialogue. 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
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 entr e 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.