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Sutton Hardcover – September 25, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 342 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: When Willie Sutton walked from Attica Prison on Christmas, 1969, the Irish, Brooklyn-born bank robber reemerged as a folk hero for American everymen fed up with a financial system that favored the rich. Infamous for his flair for disguise, Willie the Actor and his crew shook down 100 banks between the 1920s and his final arrest in 1952. He claimed to have never killed anyone, but he spent over half his adult life in prison, where he saved his sanity by reading classics and meticulously plotting audacious escapes--some successful. In Sutton, J.R. Moehringer (The Tender Bar) performs a similarly audacious feat, tunneling through layers of legend and emerging with a novel that hums with the truth of Sutton's life, with all its dramatic contradictions. Shifting easily between Willie's first Christmas of freedom and the pivotal events of his past, Moehringer's tale of how lost love and desperation compelled Sutton to feats of (admittedly criminal) brilliance rivals those in The Shawshank Redemption. --Mari Malcolm


"With a voice at once sentimental and muscular, Moehringer is like the kid brother of John Irving or Roddy Doyle. He brings a raconteur's grace and rhythm to his first novel, Sutton, a stirring portrait of Willie ''The Actor'' Sutton. A-."―Entertainment Weekly

"A captivating and absorbing read."―Kirkus (starred)

"Moehringer relays, in electrifying prose, the highs and lows of Sutton's dramatic life . . . Readers will be riveted by this colorful portrayal of a life in crime."―Booklist (starred)

"In Moehringer's more-than capable hands, the story has a life all its own beyond the historical fact."―The Daily Beast

"A moving and thoroughly absorbing novel. Filled with vibrant and colorful re-creations of not one but several times in the American past."―Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row

"In Willie Sutton, the greatest bank-robber of all time, thinker and lover, escape artist extraordinaire, [J.R. Moehringer] has found an historical subject equal to his vivid imagination, gimlet journalistic eye, and pitch-perfect ear for dialogue. The result is a terrific first novel by turns suspenseful, funny, romantic, and sad-in short, a book you won't be able to put down."―John Burnham Schwartz, author of Reservation Road and The Commoner

"Sutton presents a glorious romance, a riveting heist novel, a financial history of the 20th century, a loving portrait of New York, and an empathetic portrait of the bank robber as a young man, all in one crisp, sad, and often hilarious novel. It is an utter joy to read."―Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and Memory Wall

"A mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable man . . . The author's eye for detail and sense of place make every stop on Sutton's internal and external journeys resonate-from smoking a Chesterfield to Sutton's first sight of the moon as a free man, every scene is saturated with life."―Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; First Edition edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401323146
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401323141
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (342 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At just midway into Sutton I can tell you it's the second best book I've read this years, the first being Beautiful Ruins. William Francis Sutton Jr. was born in Brooklyn in 1901, his father was a blacksmith, his two older brothers beat up on him with regularity and his mother spent her days reading a bible aloud to his blind grandfather and I was reminded for a moment of Angela's Ashes for a moment in the description of this impoverished home. On the day the book opens Willie is being released after 17 years in Attica prison in New York and he leads a reporter and a photographer on a tour of his old stomping grounds in New York. you learn that he is a self-taught erudite gentleman bank robber who has spent his years in jail reading the classics and staying up on current affairs. Kirkus Reviews has given Sutton a starred review and I too want to recommend this book to all.
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Format: Hardcover
There's a whole generation or two of readers who don't know much about the life of Willie Sutton, although some might come up with the right question in response to a low value Jeopardy box like, "He said that's where the money is." Thanks to a finely written debut novel, Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer, readers can find out about the person who robbed more banks than anyone else, and became a folk hero to his fellow Americans. A reporter and photographer have been sent to pick up Sutton as he leaves prison for an exclusive interview. While Sutton agrees to the interview, he takes charge of leading the young reporter on a tour of special places in New York that meant a lot to Sutton, and this journey provides the setting for Moehringer to lay out the story of Sutton's life. Unlike a stale biography, the novel structure allows Moehringer to blend historical facts with his own imagination to produce an engaging, entertaining and well told story. Any reader who appreciates well written prose, loves New York, and has an interest in twentieth century stories, is likely to enjoy this novel.

Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
2 Comments 28 of 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book so brilliantly conceived, perfectly paced and filled with sweeping emotions, there is only one man who could have written it. Moehringer. This author may in fact be the greatest writer, storyteller and wordsmith of our generation. You'll want to read it for the compelling story of Willy the Actor, the tragic hero of a generation. But mostly, you'll want to read it for a peek into the mind of J R, its author. He brings to life a true American thrill ride, filled with love, daring, heroism, betrayal, even a deep psychoanalysis that will make you pause in your reading to consider your own life. And, what better time than now to read about a man that had issues with banks, and a world that adored him for it.

J R had me at The Tender Bar, his deeply loved memoir. It impacted my life intensely, so much so, I could only describe it to friends as causing a personal revival. Some actually resented how much I talked about that book...until they read it. The author's sheer perspective on life made me want to change mine, and made me want to attack life in a whole new way. Like someone reaching through the pages and shaking you, and inspiring you at the same time. He followed his own story with that of tennis great, Andre Agassi with OPEN. Already considered one of the great autobiography's of our time, Andre's life in the skillful hands of Moehringer, not only became a runaway bestseller, but single hand-idly raised the bar for the entire memoir genre. Even Agassi said he didn't fully understand his life until he viewed it through Moehringer's lens. So I can say pretty confidently that the world of 'booklovers' has been holding their collective breath in anticipation of J R's first novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
J. R. Mohringer is my favorite author EVER! I am 68 years old and an avid reader and "Tender Bar" was the best memoir I've ever read and now "Sutton" brings home just why I'm totally in love with Mr. Mohringer. WONDERFUL!!!
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Format: Hardcover
I'm going to write the author an extended thank-you letter for this book. It has opened up and fleshed out a childhood question that has intrigued me since I was old enough to read. The author already established himself as one of my favorite writers with his memoir, The Tender Bar: A Memoir. Reading Sutton cemented this feeling for me. It is a deeply affecting, highly entertaining book.

Sutton reconstructs the story of folk-hero/bank robber Willie Sutton in a really creative way: after Sutton's release from Prison in 1969, he takes a reporter and a photographer on an exclusive chronological journey through his old haunts. As they visit the five boroughs of New York City the newspapermen begin to get glimpses of the man behind the myth... or do they? Sutton is an intriguing character, beautifully drawn here. A product of a keen intellect and one of the hardest stretches of Twentieth Century American History. His story is the story of rising disillusionment and corruption and the mental gymnastics needed to survive. Sutton moves through a succession of impossible situations beginning with a brutal childhood, with the grace of a philosopher (or a prizefighter...), buoyed along by his love of knowledge and the pursuit of the love of his life. He finds there is one thing he does really well. The fact that it isn't legal has a basically very moral man jumping through hoops to convince himself that his life has meaning and is justified, much as we all do. Sutton's life was just writ on a larger stage than most of us will ever tread upon.
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