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Sutton by J.R. Moehringer

Sutton (original 2012; edition 2012)

by J.R. Moehringer

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2641843,112 (3.81)14
Authors:J.R. Moehringer
Info:Hyperion (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library, Books from BEA 2012
Tags:read, fiction, ARC, 2012review

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Sutton by J. R. Moehringer (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
An imaginative story, almost entirely fictitious, of the bank robber Willie Sutton and why he robbed banks. hint: It wasn't exactly because that's where the money was. The story is quite sympathetic to Sutton, and sanitized I'm sure, and a good tale. However I dislike the artsy McCarthyesque desire not to use punctuation with dialog. It spoils my reading experience. When I am constantly distracted with: is he saying this? is he thinking this? who is saying this? is this a description of something or is he talking about it? well, just doesn't work for me no matter how good an author may think he is doing it. After a while I caught the rhythm of the style and it was easier to read but it still would lose me now and then and throw me out of the story while I re-read lines trying to figure things out.

Still, the story itself is very interesting and I enjoyed it. It is a compelling read and after a while one gets used to the lack of punctuation. One has to throw oneself back in time to Christmas Eve 1969 and Willie Sutton being given a pardon and release from Attica Correctional Facility in New York. There are, I think, a few anachronisms and glitches that poked me a little while reading. Willie rides around town on Christmas day with a photographer and reporter and as they visit places we get Willie's backstory. Willie has been a big book reader in prison and he knows a lot. He also has his own rich history. He seems unaware of changes in society in the 17 years he has been in prison, which could be expected, but curiously well aware of others. And, when Willie uses an expression like "same old same old" which I am pretty positive I had never heard by 1969, I scratched my head a little. At least Willie doesn't say "back in the day." OK, I'm nitpicking a little. But Willie steals a Chrysler, zooms away in the Chevy, then gets out of the Chrysler. Some magic there.

It's a really good story. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it is quite good. I was a little disappointed with the end game after the enjoyable trip to get there. Actually, I was a lot disappointed with the ending. We know that Willie doesn't tell a story the same way once, but the end makes one think that the entire story we have read is a complete delusion. And the end after the end just made no sense to me. So I still give the story 4 stars. It could have had the moon though with just a bit of spit and shine. ( )
  RBeffa | Jul 7, 2014 |
A highly romanticized a sympathetic telling of the story of Willie Sutton perhaps the most notorious bank robber in United States history. Willie is contacted by a reporter and photographer from a publication that has exclusive rights to interview late in his life after a seventeen year stint in prison (from which he was just released). He takes them in chronological order to a series of locations in New York City that were important in his life and he tells them part of his story at each spot. It is quite creatively done but this book is the rose colored glasses version of his life as the author has given him plenty of excuses for his bad behavior over the years. More perhaps about the authors wishes than reality. ( )
  muddyboy | Feb 20, 2014 |
Really fun historical fiction book. I think a good way to judge this genre is by level of disappointment felt that the story is not completely real. Really is a great story of a criminal life that was driven to love (not driven BY love, as some of the jacket comments would lead you to believe). If the book has a fault, in my opinion, it is that not enough time is spent relating the events of Willy's sult life outside of prison (what little there was). I had the chance to read this book in large chunks (irregular for me), and I do wonder if I would have liked it as much without this opportunity. Another possible insult, mostly because it makes it hard to recommend to certain readers is the non-use of quotation marks for dialogue--sort of a niche style that I'm not all together on board with, but perhaps works in this case, as it is historical fiction. ( )
  rdwhitenack | Jan 8, 2014 |
From one of the best first sentences I've ever read ("He's writing when they come for him") to an ending that undercuts the truth of the story Sutton tells to the Reporter/Photographer team that picks him up upon his Christmas release from prison, SUTTON is an immersive experience. All Reporter and Photographer want is to get the story of the Arnold Schuster murder and a shot of Willie at the site of the murder, but Willie leads them on a criss-crossing chronological journey through the boroughs of New York, starting with his birthplace. They visit old apartments, Coney Island, jewelry stores and banks, old hospitals and prisons. Willie recalls the significance of each place: where he met his best friends and conspirators; where he met the love of his life, Bess; where pulled off his first job; where he got nabbed. It's a deeply absorbing story, but Reporter keeps finding inconsistencies between Willie's story and the police records and FBI files. Neither Reporter nor the reader will every know the whole truth, but Willie is undeniably a charismatic and sympathetic character; he easily carries the book.


Gravity is no joke. Gravity is one of the few laws he's never broken. (19)

Like I said. Myths. All my life, if reporters weren't making me out to be worse than I am, they were making me out to be better. (24)

There was no such thing as a conversation. Life was one long argument. Which nobody ever won. (35)

...life is all about money. And love. And lack thereof. Anyone who tells you different is a fuckin liar. Money. Love. There's not a problem that isn't caused by one or the other. And there's not a problem that can't be solved by one or the other. (58)

Did you know Socrates said we love whatever we lack? Or think we lack? If you feel stupid, you'll fall for someone brainy. If you feel ugly, you'll flip your lid for someone who's easy on the eyes. (76)

Each of us is born in many places. (98)

New York, he says. No matter how many times you see it, you never quite get over how much it doesn't fuckin need you. Doesn't care if you live or die, stay or go. (107)

The world is wrong, Sutty. I don't know why, I don't know when it went wrong, or if it's always been, but I know it's wrong....Maybe two wrongs don't make a right. But answerin a wrong with a right? That just makes you poor and hungry. And nothin is as wrong as that. (112)

People are already mad for diamonds, but people don't know the half. The haunting beauty of stolen diamonds in a black silk purse at two in the morning - it's like being the first person ever to see the stars. (119)

Willie feels as if the world is a novel he set down years ago. (152)

He never realized till now that ribs are nothing but bars made of bone, and the heart is just a scared prisoner pounding to get out. (235)

Willie has played chess many times with this murderer - he never knew. He makes a mental note: from now on let the man win. (240)

Our best performances in life, he tells the wall, are delivered with no audience. (264)

I love you, Bess. And I always will. It's cost me everything, absolutely everything, but maybe it's not love if it doesn't cost us everything. (324)

[Reporter] wouldn't want to live in a world full of Willie Suttons. He's simply not sure that he'd want to live in a world with no Willie Suttons. (330)

His current theory is that Sutton lived three separate lives. The one he remembered, the one he told people about, and the one that really happened. Where those lives overlapped, no one can say, and God help anyone who tries. (330)

All love is delusional. What matters is that the love endured. (331) ( )
  JennyArch | Dec 6, 2013 |
Although I liked this book overall, I found the flashback style distracting and the ending a bit odd. This story of one of the 20th century's most famous bank robbers presents a complex character and raises questions regarding economic injustice. ( )
  Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
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"I have said it thrice: What I tell you three time is true." - Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark
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For Roger and Sloan Barnett, with love and gratitude
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A fictionalized account of Willie Sutton, one of the most notorious criminals in American history, traces his life, his doomed romance with his first love, and his surprise pardon on Christmas Eve in 1969.

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