Hyperion, $27.99, 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-4013-2314-1
The novel is titled simply Sutton, by Pulitzer Prize winning author J.R. Moehringer. Some astute readers will no doubt recognize the name from his best selling memoir, The Tender Bar.
On Christmas Eve 1969, after seventeen years of incarceration, Willie Sutton is released from the state penitentiary at Attica, New York. He meets two people from one of New York’s biggest newspapers at the airport and, is flown back to the city where he’s put up in a swanky hotel for the night, courtesy of the paper . . . his lawyer has given them the exclusive rights to his story in return for their editorial support for his parole. And so the story begins, as Moehringer deftly weaves together fact and fiction as he imagines, through a series of flashbacks, Willie’s crimes, his exploits and years in prison that Christmas day in 1969. But all the while, Willie Sutton, AKA “Willie the Actor,” the “Babe Ruth of bank robbers,” is secretly trying to find Bess, the love of his life . . . lost but never forgotten. At times sad, funny and poignant, Sutton will have you rooting for Willie as he weaves his web of duplicity, humanity and deception throughout the twenties and thirties, forties and fifties. It’s the story of an American folk hero; a criminal mastermind and a lonely man trying to keep hold of his humanity while in the belly of the beast. Was Willie Sutton an incorrigible recidivist or a victim of circumstance, doomed from the start by the time and place of his birth? Read the book and decide for yourself. It’s a great and entertaining read that will have you stuck to the pages like green ink on a Federal Reserve Note.