Source: Personal Copy
Willie “the Actor” Sutton has been locked up for many years. When he walks out from prison, many journalists are interested in his story and he has quite the story to tell. He grew up poor in the Irish slums of Brooklyn, his father was a blacksmith, and his mother a housewife. His two older brothers beat him every chance they had, and being an Irish boy, he could never tell or they would retaliate worst. Willie fell in love with a wealthy girl, and her father banned her from seeing him. Willie became American’s most successful bank robber during an age when banks were out of control; unemployment was high, banks took too many risks and depression was nearing. The public rooting for Willie, because they thought the banks deserved to be robbed. He never hurt anyone, and the banks were his sole victims. Willie takes reports back to the places he’s been, while recounting his story.
Sutton was a great book. It reminded me a of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, the desperation and pain. I thought Willie exiting prison and telling his story to the reporters was an excellent way to write the book. It really gave the book an extra depth. Readers are able to understand where Willie is coming from, and where he wants to go. He’s escaped from prison many times; he’s trusted the wrong people and he doesn’t understand why there is so much fascination with him.
I haven’t tried Moehringer’s other books but I certainly will add them to my wish list. His writing is masculine, in a way that really draws readers in. The interchanging back and forth between times, really works well. Readers get a sense of who Willie was, and who he is now. Times have really changed, and Willie’s reactions are interesting.
I really enjoyed this one. I had my eye on it for a few months, but I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I’m really glad that I picked it up. It was worth the time and attention. I was invested in the characters, and found myself searching for more information on Willie Sutton and that’s always a sign that I enjoyed a historical fiction book. This is another book I recommend, especially if you loved Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.