Sutton - J.R. Moehringer Born on June 30, 1901 Willie “the Actor” Sutton was a notorious bank robber through the early part of the 1900’s. He died on November 02, 1980 after having spent more than half of his adult life in prison. He served time in several different penal institutions and managed dramatic escapes three times. Willie Sutton was a legend stealing more than $2 million during his dubious career. He became legendary mostly due to the fact that he never completed a robbery if a woman screamed or a baby cried and never hurt or killed anyone during his robberies. Willie was a gentleman thief, but also a smooth talker and a consummate liar so many versions of his escapades exist.

Mr. Moehringer begins his book on the day of Willie’s final release from Attica on Christmas Eve, 1969. Wanting an exclusive story “Reporter” and “Photographer” (Willie never can remember their names) are sent to get the exclusive story of the murder of Arnold Shuster, who recognized Willie on the subway, thereby sending him back to prison for the final time. Willie agrees to the interview but on his terms. He wants to visit the important places in his life in chronological order, finally getting to the scene of the Shuster shooting. Although it means traveling back and forth across the city of New York several times “Reporter” and “Photographer” agree. Each stop is a story told in Willie’s voice, an important event in his life, a memory sometimes sad and sometimes humorous.

Mr. Moehringer obviously did his research. I thoroughly enjoyed this book I wanted to know a little more about Willie Sutton, so did a little more reading about his life. I believe Mr. Moehringer waded through the various stories and factual accounts and wove them into his narrative. The book starts and ends on Christmas Eve of 1969, but the one night is filled with Willie’s memories of decades. Unfortunately the ending is bittersweet for both Willie and the reader.

This was my first read of 2013 and what a great way to start off the new year of reading. This is a five star book all the way. Mr. Moehringer does not go on to tell us about Willie’s life after his release, but my personal reading let me to believe that although he no longer robbed banks (???) and despite suffering from emphysema he still led a pretty interesting life. He became an advocate for prison reform, consulted with banks implementing anti-robbery techniques and even became a spokesperson for the New Britain Bank and Trust Company.