Feature

Novel of the week: Sutton by J.R. Moehringer

In J.R. Moehringer’s debut novel, the famous bank robber Willie Sutton makes a “shockingly lovable” protagonist.

(Hyperion, $28)

Since long before the 2008 bailouts, “Americans have hated banks and the people who run them,” said Adam Lashinsky in the San Francisco Chronicle. Yet few have ever acted on that animus the way Willie Sutton did. In J.R. Moehringer’s debut novel, the famous bank robber makes a “shockingly lovable” protagonist. A populist hero during his Depression-era heyday, he’s been brought back to life for a one-day tour of New York City on Christmas Eve 1969, the day the real-life Sutton was released from prison after 17 years behind bars. Sutton is “a helluva character to reimagine,” said Karen Valby in Entertainment Weekly. As the old tough visits his haunts in Irish Brooklyn and chats about past exploits to a reporter, his account has “a raconteur’s grace and rhythm,” like a dream conversation with a stranger in a bar. Moehringer “doesn’t seem to know how to wrap up this otherwise great yarn.” But “isn’t closing time always a bit of a letdown when you don’t want an entertaining night to end?”

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