Born in the slums of Brooklyn, in the first year of the 20th century, Willie Sutton came of age at a time when banks were out of control. If they weren’t taking brazen risks, they were shamelessly seeking bailouts. Trapped in a cycle of bank panics, depressions and soaring unemployment, Sutton saw only one way out. So began the career of America’s most successful bank robber. 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. 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. And when Sutton finally walked free, 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 that is forever timeless.
©2012 J.R. Moehringer (P)2012 Hyperion
I chose this book because of all the glowing reviews from other people who had listened to it. I have to admit, their assessment of the story and performance were accurate. Thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Sutton is a very well written book and well preformed story. I read both the book and listened to the performance of the audio edition. It is a very charming and almost infectious story that portrays one of America’s most wanted criminals as almost a folk hero leaving the reader/listener, at least in my case, cheering for the ”bad” guy. It is the type of book that I would enjoy reading again or listening to again for the sheer enjoyment and entertainment value.
The book centers on the life of Willie Sutton as the title of the book indicates. I enjoyed this character primarily in the way the author presents Sutton. Sutton speaks directly to the reader/listener outlining his activities, his thinking and his feelings behind his decisions in life. Sutton then directs an abbreviated version of what he has told the reader to a character in the book, a reporter from the New York Times. Sutton, as the story goes, is working with the reporter on a story about his, Willy Sutton’s life. The reporter takes Sutton on a journey to the locations that have been significant in Sutton’s life. As Sutton visits these locations he recalls the circumstances, emotions and events which, in fact, lead him to some of his decisions and behavior. By portraying Sutton in this manner and light the author makes Sutton come alive as he takes the reader along with him on this journey. The audio version with the voices and emotions the narrator, Dylan Baker offers, adds a dimension to the book that you miss by just reading the book.
I did not laugh and I did not cry; however, I did smile a lot.
It was an excellent book and excellent production well worth the read and listen.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Sutton is SO outrageous. As a character, he's unbelievably bold. I'm not sure where reality stops and creative license starts. But, it's memorable and a terrific listen.
Yes...but an odd shift near the end left me adrift as the listener wondering why the story was constructed as it is and what the point of the switcheroo was.
I would have plotted out a more consistent narrative or signaled something being doubt much earlier. The "twist" comes across as Agatha Christie introducing an 11th hour character/clue to make things work out.
No - but his performance was terrific...really added to the experience. Some performers attempt various voices and either fall short of fall into parody. His range was remarkable. I've enjoyed him on screen as a character actor, and his talents are similarly on display here.
It depends on how much editorial control Mr. Moehringer will concede - preferably to a director who can create and maintain a central character who challenges our compassion in a reasonable if not reasoned way.
I was able to listen while at work in a noisy and busy environment, yet the readers voice kept me focused on really hearing the subtle nuances of the character's personna all through the audio book. It was resplendant with colorful description, ( sometimes too colorful) but all of the story from start to finish was masterfully read and completely satisfying. I am a new listener, but see many more hours of enjoyment to come including a re-listen to Sutton
tonality is prominent for good understanding of nuance
Probably not. I usually do not listen to books twice. This book was good but not a page turner.
The realization that what we remember is not always the truth.
I don't know if I have or not. I do not play close attention to the performers names but after this book I will because he was so good.
"A Lonely Man"
I really enjoyed that this book was based on a true character in history. Made me curious enough to Google Willie Sutton.
I was disappointed by this book. It is written as historical fiction, but has an overlayed story that is dull and includes three characters that are not very interesting. I wish the story had been told from some other perspective in forward time or that it had been written as non-fiction. As it is, it sucks as a piece of fiction, and does't work as non-fiction. I heard the author talking about the book, and I think he was trying to capture the different voices that Sutton himself spoke with about his own life at different times, but it really does not work. Suggest you read the WIkipedia entry on Willy Sutton and leave the book alone.
Maybe - nothing really stood out about the performance.
The choice to tell this story from the day Willie Sutton was released from prison in 1969 felt like an awkward decision to me right from the start. I know quite a bit about the real Willie Sutton and was looking forward to this novelization. If you don't, have that background though, why would you care about a submissive ex-con? The story jumps back and forth through Willie's history to his journey on Xmas day '69 with a reporter and photographer to the places in New York that were important to him. Unfortunately the reporter is portrayed as a stereotypical straight arrow who can't get with Willie's unconventional manner of doing things, while the photographer is portrayed as the worst kind of hippie with all the hippie stereotype including a fringe jacket, Soul On Ice in his camera bag, and a girlfriend who's a masseuse. Could I make this up? I guess J.R. Moehringer thinks he did.
The story paints Willie Sutton, arguably the most successful bank robber in US history, as a very romantic guy who did everything he is accused of to win the heart of the girl who first convinced him to commit a crime. Main problem being, according to history, the girl in question was with his friend and Willie was probably the brains of the operation. This problem is addressed, albeit bizarrely, at the end of the book.
Moehringer cuts Sutton an awful lot of slack. He implies that the state of New York failed to help the Sutton family transition when the blacksmith trade became obsolete. He shows us that Willie, though clearly of gifted intelligence, was not adequately educated for useful work.He paints a graphic picture of a boy bullied and abused until violence seems like the only alternative to him. He shows us that intelligent people when faced with unemployment will more frequently turn to crime than accept underpaid work. All of these factors are as true today as they were in the 1920s and I'm sure that is Moehringer's point in bringing them to our attention. While they may be true, they seem more significant to the author's message than they do to the story. The late Donald Westlake, who under the pseudonym Richard Stark wrote the Parker 'heist' novels, made many of these same observations unobtrusively while his books were a lot more fun to read.
When all is said, I was pretty disappointed in Mr. Moehringer's speculations. He does point out that Willie Sutton wrote two accounts of his life which do not correspond with each other. I've only read one of these, I, Willie Sutton, and recommend it to interested readers over this present work.
Dylan Baker did an excellent job with pretentious, pseudo philosophical dialog and one stereotypical character after another.
In my estimation, Willie Sutton deserves better.
I would expect so.
Characters were vivid
Descriptions of the crimes, bank robberies and escapes.
Not unless I was driving on a long trip.
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