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Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts Paperback – Bargain Price, September 13, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316010731
  • ASIN: B000Y8Y1SU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This story of a bank robber who captured a nation's sympathy in post-Communist Hungary is a rollicking tale told with glee and flair. Attila Ambrus sneaked over the border from Romania into Hungary in the waning days of Communist rule. After talking his way onto a Hungarian hockey team, he turned to robbery to make some cash in the Wild West atmosphere of the early 1990s in Eastern Europe. As journalist Rubinstein shows, Ambrus was quite good at it. Taking advantage of poor police work, he took in millions in Hungarian currency and became a headline-grabber. He managed to stay at large for several years while continuing in his role as a back-up goalie on the ice. Rubinstein has a knack for telling a good story, and he captures well both Ambrus's appeal and the atmosphere of the first few years of capitalism in Hungary. Along the way, he introduces readers to memorable characters in addition to the appealing, alcoholic protagonist: the women Ambrus attracts and a Budapest detective driven out of office by the crime spree. While Rubinstein (whose work has been collected in Best American Crime Writing) overwrites at times, he has a rootin'-tootin' style that's a perfect fit for this Jesse James–like tale, which has the chance to be a sleeper that transcends nonfiction categories.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Hungarians loved Attila Ambrus; from Rubinstein’s appealing biography, it’s easy to see why. Rubinstein tells the story of this goalie-gone-bad with style and wit. He also maintains a historian’s impartiality, however, supported by a wealth of meticulous research. One reviewer complained that Rubinstein glossed over the misery of life in 1990s Hungary, but this was his only criticism of an engaging and informative tale. Readers of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber may not fall in love with Attila Ambrus as the Hungarians did, but his story will surely entertain them.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


More About the Author

Attila Ambrus (the "Whiskey Robber") is now out of prison. I was with him in Hungary Feb 1, 2012, the day after his release. (The video of his leaving the prison is on the book website.) He is currently working as a ceramicist and living outside Budapest, where he is making pottery and news on a regular basis.

The book also exists as a digital audio cabaret, which can be purchased here. The performance stars Eric Bogosian, Gary Shteyngart, Demetri Martin, Jonathan Ames, Tommy Ramone and others.

The book was the winner of (now defunct) Borders "Original Voices" Book of the Year, a finalist for the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award and a finalist for the Anthony Award. The audio cabaret was a finalist for the 2007 Audie Award for Best Audio Book.

My other work can be found at my personal website, which also has links to other media about the book and my work from other publications, including the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Travel + Leisure and others.

There is also a dedicated site for the book, which includes links to songs that bands around the world have written about Attila, as well as the song I wrote in his voice, and performed at festivals:
whiskeyrobber.com

If you'd like, please join the Facebook page for the book, where more information about it, as well as news about the film, and Attila, is posted.
www.facebook.com/whiskeyrobber

To follow me and my other work, you can visit my personal Facebook page.
www.facebook.com/julian.rubinstein1

You can also follow me on Twitter:
@julian_rubinste

I appreciate your interest in my work and I do my best to respond to all email.

Sincerely,
-Julian Rubinstein

Customer Reviews

One of the funniest books I've ever read.
P. Pray
On its face, this is a book about Attila Ambrus, the so-called Whiskey Robber, who robbed dozens of banks and post offices in post-Communist Hungary.
Debbie the Book Devourer
Very well researched and expertly written.
Brian Acord

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Julian Rubensten the author says in an interview he couldn't believe no other writers were jumping on this true story of a Hungarian hockey player "supplementing" his income by robbing banks in the early 1990s. Most reviewers have already summarized the plot. If I can only add some things: This is more than a page-turning comedy full of colorful criminals and real-life Keystone Cops. This is a tragedy about a man who, dismissed by his father and ridiculed by his teammates as a homeless peasant, wanted to be loved, to be accepted and to be a somebody and who used his talents, cunning, and imagination to become a grotesque criminal. Atilla, the main character, is so endearing, which attests to Rubenstein's great writing skills.

Lovers of comic novels such as Confederacy of Dunces, The Gingerman or any of the farcical novels of Thomas Berger and Magnus Mills should love Ballad of a Whiskey Robber.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter Ormosi on November 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The story of Attila Ambrus is unbelievably fascinating. The history of Hungary is bitterly nice, full of historical surprises. To forge the two in one story seems to be a very difficult mission. To do it in a way that is entertaining and teaching in the same time is art. And to do all these by not being Hungarian? That I would say is impossible.

Julian Rubinstein proved to be a great artist who managed to do all what seemed impossible.

His interpretation is simply perfect. I am saying this as a Hungarian who lived in Hungary when the series of robberies happened and who knows how corrupt the country is (was?), which is probably an unavoidable consequence of transition from planned economy to a market economy.

When I first heard from this book, I was particularly curious to find out what a non-Hungarian would think about the stupendous story of the `whiskey robber' but I ordered the book with an immense feeling of discredit. I would have never expected that someone without the cultural background would ever understand those strange Hungarians :-)

Having read the book, I have to admit now that Julian Rubinstein was indeed able to do it so well that sometimes I had the feeling that the book was actually written by an English-speaking Hungarian. I think I could never give a compliment bigger and more honest than this.

I recommend the book to those that want to know more about what it felt like to be a Hungarian after the transition, to those who are curious to know the story of Attila, to those who love exciting criminal stories and great humour.

And if you're Hungarian? Then this book is a must for you! :)
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hungary's most beloved criminal, Attila Ambrus, is locked away until 2016, but even now he is interviewed on television, as a commentator on current bank robberies since he was an expert, and even the dog he had when he was free (and who will probably never see him again) makes the news now and then. Attila won't say what his immediate plans are; he says he'd "be insincere" if he made remarks about planning to escape, but he is working on getting an education, and he loves reading. He has a huge encyclopedia of Hungarian history that even mentions him as a national folk hero. This is despite his alcoholism, addiction to gambling, womanizing, and career as the worst goalie ever in professional Hungarian hockey. The bizarre story is rollickingly told in _Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts_ (Little, Brown) by Julian Rubinstein. This hugely entertaining story would fail if it were fiction; Rubinstein has done lots of research, including hours of jailhouse interviews with the hero, and it is all true, but still incredible.

Attila escaped from Romania to Hungary in 1988, clinging to the bottom of a train. He wound up in Budapest penniless and friendless, and he had a funny accent. With unswerving determination, he caught on to a championship Budapest hockey club. Once he did get a chance to show his stuff on the ice, "... it didn't take long for the team to recognize the new kid's level of talent. Zero...." He didn't get paid, but he doubled as the team's janitor. He also drove the Zamboni, until while driving drunk one night, he drove it into the stands.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Zaugg on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I had been waiting to hear the full story surrounding the Whisky Robber since I heard a bit about him in the summer of 1997 while I was living in Hungary. I followed his crime spree, arrest, escape, and recapture even after returning home, since I found something compelling in this brazen thief. When I heard about this book, I had to have it. It definitely did not disappoint.

Not only does Rubinstein write a compelling story in its "True Crime" aspects, he also paints an accurate picture of Hungary during the time of the crime spree. His book helped take me back to my time in Hungary from 1995-1997 and some of the absurdities that existed during that time and afterward.

However, the story of Atilla Ambrus was even more compelling. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. Now that I have read it, I can't stop telling everybody around me about it.
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