Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts

Julian Rubinstein
DESCRIPTION: Elmore Leonard meets Franz Kafka in the wild, improbably true story of the legendary outlaw of Budapest. Attila Ambrus was a gentleman thief, a sort of Cary Grant--if only Grant came from Transylvania, was a terrible professional hockey goalkeeper, and preferred women in leopard-skin hot pants. During the 1990s, while playing for the biggest hockey team in Budapest, Ambrus took up bank robbery to make ends meet. Arrayed against him was perhaps the most incompetent team of crime investigators the Eastern Bloc had ever seen: a robbery chief who had learned how to be a detective by watching dubbed Columbo episodes; a forensics man who wore top hat and tails on the job; and a driver so inept he was known only by a Hungarian word that translates to Mound of Ass-Head. BALLAD OF THE WHISKEY ROBBER is the completely bizarre and hysterical story of the crime spree that made a nobody into a somebody, and told a forlorn nation that sometimes the brightest stars come from the blackest holes. Like The Professor and the Madman and The Orchid Thief, Julian Rubinsteins bizarre crime story is so odd and so wicked that it is completely irresistible.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-10-10
Rubinstein is a good writer. He tells the story of...well, it a story of a drunken, delusional, self-absorbed, thief. Imagine the story of Robin Hood and instead of robbing the rich and giving to the poor, he robbed banks and blew the money in casinos and carousing. Then, when he wasn't breaking every commandment, he dedicated his life and energy to ice hockey, where he was the worst player on the worst team in Eastern Europe.

If Attila (the Whiskey Robber) spent a quarter of the time and effort he put into robbing banks and post offices, and being an unpaid player on a professional hockey team into something productive, he could have made something of himself.

Rubinstein is a good writer; he draws you into this fascinating world and he can make the Whiskey Robber into a likeable character. You root for him because he escapes a hard childhood in Communist Romania in hopes of a better life in Hungary. But his impatience, pride, and foolish decisions lead him to a life of crime. He is a drunk because he was guilt ridden and he feared being caught. Instead of being repentant, he justifies himself and his crimes, which is the saddest part of the whole book.
Interesting core of a story, but with considerable padding around it.
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