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.
Although Sutton is a work of fiction, the historical elements are so rich in detail that by the end of the book, you’ll feel as though you’ve just relived a piece of history. Willie Sutton is a hero, and an anti-hero. He is loved, and he is hated. You’ll root for him, feel for him, and feel like you know him long before you reach the end.
The pros: almost everything about the book. The flow kept me turning pages right until the end. At no point did I grow bored with unnecessary filler or dead spots. Moehringer’s writing is a pleasurable, easy read, which makes use of the “write tight” lesson. There isn’t a wasted word in the entire novel. He pulls you into his created world with remarkable characters and vivid detail, but never presents so much as to ruin it for the reader or cause the book to feel over-inflated. I cannot imagine anyone walking away from this read with more negatives than positives to say about it.
The cons: I only have one negative to say about Sutton. The author uses no dialogue tags or quotation marks. He does this consistently throughout the book, which makes it a bit easier to adjust, but there were a couple passages where I did have to stop reading to go back and pick up the trail of who was speaking because after so many volleys, I lost track. Although the personalities of the characters were identifiable enough to know who was who, the dialogue of 1930s “bad guys” was similar enough that tags would have helped to distinguish speakers during certain conversations.
I’m not going to delve into the plot or storyline, as the synopsis does that. This is simply my take on the read. Overall, I would highly recommend Sutton to anyone, but especially those who are drawn to historical novels. I enjoyed it so much that yesterday I went to B&N to buy The Tender Bar, an earlier and highly acclaimed novel by the same author.
2 thoughts on “Sutton”
Thanks for your review. I’ve added Sutton to my ever-growing list of books I want to read. As an aspiring historical fiction writer, it sounds like I could learn a lot from how the historical back drop of this book was written.
Thank you for the feedback, Janet. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts once you’ve read it….. Happy writing!