by J. R. Moehringer
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Sutton by J. R. Moehringer

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401312688
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 259,540
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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 bestselling The Tender Bar and coauthor of Open by Andre Agassi.


Denver, Colorado

Date of Birth:

December 7, 1964

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Yale College, 1986

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Sutton 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author tells a fictional account of the famous bank robber Willie "the Actor" Sutton. It's amazing how many banks Willie actually robbed and how much money he got away with, especially considering the time. The author tells the story from the point of view of Sutton when he just gets out of prison at an old age. The first 30 or so pages are a little slow, but after that I couldn't put it down. The ending is a little confusing, but if I discuss it here it would be too much of a spoiler. I definitely recommend it! Good book!
rwilliams630 More than 1 year ago
GREAT READ.  VERY addicting, and a super quick read. Loved the references to Brooklyn neighborhoods and streets, and couldn't put it down. That said, I was very confused and almost disappointed in the ending.  But all in all, this was a great read. 
jlks More than 1 year ago
I'm still not sure how to feel about this story. Part of me wants to dive into an internet search, to see how much was "historical" and how much was "fiction". Part of me wants to believe it all as the author presented it - kinda-sorta-maybe a tad bit crazy Willie Sutton and all. And part of me wants to turn cynic and scoff at all the fantastic exploits attributed to Willie in his day. There were a few Sutty details that I really want to believe are true: That he was a voracious reader - because those who love to read can't be all bad, right? That he was intensely loyal to his friends and loved ones - because we all need to know that there's at least one person in our lives that we can depend on, one hundred percent of the time. That he truly did care for other people, despite his law-breaking ways - because the Robin Hood-like acts the author attributed to Willie towards the end of the book are too perfect, and it would make me sad if that was just a fabrication. That part of Sutty's treasure is still buried in mason jars around the island of New York - because I love a good treasure hunt. Not that I'd actually fly to New York and start digging holes in Central Park, but the thought that there may be money from a bank heist in 1920 sitting in a corroded jar in the middle of bustling New York just tickles my fancy. The writing style of this book took a while to get used to. Not the back-and-forth between past and present, but the lack of quotation marks when someone is speaking. Not entirely sure what that was about, but it was a bit distracting, at first. Also, about half-way through, the story really got bogged down by Willie, and never fully recovered. It was a slow grind, and it never fully stopped being entertaining, but it definitely didn't reel me back in for a humdinger of an ending. "Chronological order, kid" may have been Willie's go-to line, but I quickly found myself agreeing with Reporter and Photographer: "No time like the present to get to the ending of this bad boy..." The ending certainly left me trying to puzzle a few things out. But the thing is - the questions I have...are they questions about things that actually happened, or are they questions about things that Moehringer presented as Willie Sutton fact, but which are, in fact, antics created for the book? If I had enjoyed the book a bit more, I might devote some extra energy into pondering said questions. As it is, though...
Icecream18JA More than 1 year ago
I liked the flashback style utilized as Willie, the reporter, and the photographer follow his chronological map of memories through NY. It reminds me of raptly listening to my grandpa and dad talk about the gangster days, relating street corners and buildings in the city to the “old days” – showing me yellowed pictures and news articles. I don’t remember them mentioning Sutton; maybe our Chicago location influenced their choice of gangsters? The mini-history lesson adds to Sutton’s personal story: the Depression, WWI, Nixon, Woodstock etc... The reporter and photographer frequently point out times when Willie contradicts himself as he tells them what happened in the past at each point on his map. Then, in the end, reading of a final contradiction stunned me. Willie’s wry bemusement at the 60’s haircuts (or lack of), Fu Manchu mustaches, and drug habits added humor. The dialogue in the early chapters reminded me of a Cagney film or a Bugs Bunny gangster cartoon....but then, the poetry and imagery of Moehringer’s writing impressed and evoked deeper thought: Willie’s perspective on astronaut Collins from the first moon landing or comparing the sacred code of Irish Town to knowing Judas’ name but not the name of the soldier who nailed Jesus to the cross. Maybe the November weather is influencing my opinion...but Moehringer’s gangster, prison metaphors seem so insightful to me: “youth is a little old lady...with a pocketful of cash” and “time is... a thug”. In his conversation about Bess, she’s described as a diamond to protect while Willie is a ten cent cone, who isn’t worthy of her. The author’s era-grounded, deep meaningful prose makes this read worth much more than just historical fiction that may shock, touch, and sadden you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a ficitionalized story of Willie "the Actor" Sutton, who robbed banks and escaped prisons through most of the first half of the twentieth century. Seen as a hero to much of the nation, Sutton was an anti-hero to many who despised the banking industry. Moehringer did a great job tellling the story and the research is impeccable. He makes Sutton out to be a highly sensitive, well-read man. There is plenty of suspense in the book, as well. I highly recommend this book. The only problem I have with this book is Moehringer's refusal to use quotation marks. This caused some confusion as to whether some passages were spoken, stated, or thought. I don't know why some writers feel the need to fall into such gimmicks. Whats next no apostrophes no question marks no commas no periods
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am always a little suspicious of historical fiction. good story. I hope it is close to the truth
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quick read, interesting setting. Good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent writer!! Wonderful story
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up the book because of a local book club and I like historical fiction. The flashback style took a little patience to get through. The story promtped me to look up Sutton's history. The ending of the book made me feel as if I had wasted all my time. I attempted to look back through earlier chapters to see if I had missed something. I do not know if I dislike the character or the author more.
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Well written, engaging. If you're at all debating this purchase, go for it! It probably won't change your life, but it certainly won't let you down.
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shellyschultz More than 1 year ago
Great great writing and compelling story, very uniquely told!
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