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

Julian Rubinstein

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Description de l'ouvrage

13 septembre 2005
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.

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

'The pace, ingenuity and comical sense of the absurd deployed to tell the story of ice hockey player and bank robber Attila Ambrus make this book read like a novel. But Attila Ambrus is real ... his extraordinary story is told here with a hint of Louis de Bernieres and a lot of panache.' (Daily Mail)

'(A) punchy, preposterous tale of a cut-price Sundance Kid of the Eastern bloc ... Rubinstein relishes every misstep taken by his anti-hero on the way to a long sentence.' (The Times)

'More than a hint of Wild West in the cops-and-robbers tale adds pace to this thoroughly researched book.' (Sunday Times Travel Magazine)

'Those who shy away from the "true crime" section of the bookshop . . . may nevertheless like to try Ballad of the Whiskey Robber . . . I particularly enjoyed Rubinstein's descriptions of the hapless cops . . . funny . . . the book is entirely free of schmaltz, which allows some unexpectedly tender moments' (Daily Telegraph)

'A funny and thrilling slice of modern history, told with all the charm of Butch and Sundance's flamboyant escapades.' (Independent)

'An extraordinary story ... told here with a hint of Louis de Bernieres and a lot of panache.' (Daily Mail)

'An hilarious, absurd parable for our times' (Word)

'A true caper of burglaries and broken hearts in the Eastern bloc' (Wanderlust)

This stuff just can't be made up (Maxim)

One of the quirkiest and most riveting narratives. Weirdness has never been so winning (Elle)

Rubinstein has found a story of the sort that would make even the most dry-mouthed journalist slobber. Sometimes sad, often hilarious and always absurd, Ambrus's tale microcomsically condenses the politico-historic oddities into one entertaining and fairly tidy narrative.With a keen eye for the ridiculous, fearlessly high-speed prose and an extraordinary wealth of reported detail, Rubinstein conducts the affair like an unusually thoughtful carnival barker. (New York Times)

[The book] got fantastic reviews in the US on publication . . . I am sure it will have a similar success here. (Bookseller)

Outrageously entertaining (San Francisco Chronicle)

An instant classic (Globe & Mail (Canada))

A fast-paced and exquisitely detailed true-crime lark (Outside)

Punchy, hilarious, and apparently even true ... truth can be better than fiction (Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutant)

'Fabulous stuff.' (The Times, Ross Leckie)

'Stories abound of Eastern Europe slipping off its communist skin and slipping on leopard-skin hot pants, but it's a story like this that really screws in the light bulbs.' (

'Forget girlie pony stories - this is the passionate adventure of taming a wild horse in the red dust and rugged terrain of the Australian outback.' (Good Housekeeping) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Biographie de l'auteur

Julian Rubinstein has written for the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Details, Sports Illustrated, Salon, and other publications. His work has been selected for the Best American Crime Writing anthology and has been cited twice by the Best American Sports Writing. Raised in Denver, he now lives in New York. This is his first book. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Miracle of Nonfiction Reporting Turned into Novel Suspense 20 novembre 2005
Par M. JEFFREY MCMAHON - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Julian Rubensten the author says in an interview he couldn't believe no other writers were jumping on this true story of a Hungarian hockey player "supplementing" his income by robbing banks in the early 1990s. Most reviewers have already summarized the plot. If I can only add some things: This is more than a page-turning comedy full of colorful criminals and real-life Keystone Cops. This is a tragedy about a man who, dismissed by his father and ridiculed by his teammates as a homeless peasant, wanted to be loved, to be accepted and to be a somebody and who used his talents, cunning, and imagination to become a grotesque criminal. Atilla, the main character, is so endearing, which attests to Rubenstein's great writing skills.

Lovers of comic novels such as Confederacy of Dunces, The Gingerman or any of the farcical novels of Thomas Berger and Magnus Mills should love Ballad of a Whiskey Robber.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 great book! 13 novembre 2004
Par Peter Ormosi - Publié sur
The story of Attila Ambrus is unbelievably fascinating. The history of Hungary is bitterly nice, full of historical surprises. To forge the two in one story seems to be a very difficult mission. To do it in a way that is entertaining and teaching in the same time is art. And to do all these by not being Hungarian? That I would say is impossible.

Julian Rubinstein proved to be a great artist who managed to do all what seemed impossible.

His interpretation is simply perfect. I am saying this as a Hungarian who lived in Hungary when the series of robberies happened and who knows how corrupt the country is (was?), which is probably an unavoidable consequence of transition from planned economy to a market economy.

When I first heard from this book, I was particularly curious to find out what a non-Hungarian would think about the stupendous story of the `whiskey robber' but I ordered the book with an immense feeling of discredit. I would have never expected that someone without the cultural background would ever understand those strange Hungarians :-)

Having read the book, I have to admit now that Julian Rubinstein was indeed able to do it so well that sometimes I had the feeling that the book was actually written by an English-speaking Hungarian. I think I could never give a compliment bigger and more honest than this.

I recommend the book to those that want to know more about what it felt like to be a Hungarian after the transition, to those who are curious to know the story of Attila, to those who love exciting criminal stories and great humour.

And if you're Hungarian? Then this book is a must for you! :)
18 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Cops and Robbers of the Absurd 2 décembre 2004
Par R. Hardy - Publié sur
Hungary's most beloved criminal, Attila Ambrus, is locked away until 2016, but even now he is interviewed on television, as a commentator on current bank robberies since he was an expert, and even the dog he had when he was free (and who will probably never see him again) makes the news now and then. Attila won't say what his immediate plans are; he says he'd "be insincere" if he made remarks about planning to escape, but he is working on getting an education, and he loves reading. He has a huge encyclopedia of Hungarian history that even mentions him as a national folk hero. This is despite his alcoholism, addiction to gambling, womanizing, and career as the worst goalie ever in professional Hungarian hockey. The bizarre story is rollickingly told in _Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts_ (Little, Brown) by Julian Rubinstein. This hugely entertaining story would fail if it were fiction; Rubinstein has done lots of research, including hours of jailhouse interviews with the hero, and it is all true, but still incredible.

Attila escaped from Romania to Hungary in 1988, clinging to the bottom of a train. He wound up in Budapest penniless and friendless, and he had a funny accent. With unswerving determination, he caught on to a championship Budapest hockey club. Once he did get a chance to show his stuff on the ice, "... it didn't take long for the team to recognize the new kid's level of talent. Zero...." He didn't get paid, but he doubled as the team's janitor. He also drove the Zamboni, until while driving drunk one night, he drove it into the stands. Desperate for some better life, and for a better place to live than the stable he had found, he got drunk, put on a wig and some mascara, and knocked off a post office. It was easy. He went on to accomplish almost thirty drunken robberies over six years, always unfailingly polite to the tellers, even bringing them roses. Capture, of course, was sooner or later inevitable, as long as Attila kept playing the robbery game, and he was eventually arrested in 1999 and put into the escape-proof downtown jail. He became a television start; in interviews, he was poised, amused, and amusing, and Whiskey Robber television specials, biographies, and t-shirts all sold well. (Some of the t-shirts toted up his score of banks: "Whiskey Robber 28, Corrupt Cops 1".) His case became, as Rubinstein writes, a referendum on the government.

It only became more so when Attila broke from prison (by means of an escape rope made of shredded sheets and shoe laces) and started robbing again, increasing the power of his legend. People refused to turn him in. Even _Sports Illustrated_ got into the act, erroneously celebrating him as "one of the best goalies in his country's top pro league." Of course he got caught again, and has stayed in prison so far. Robbing banks is surely wrong, as is boozing at Attila's level, as is losing all gains to roulette, and Rubinstein never makes the mistake of idealizing the hero of his book, no matter what degree the Hungarians have. He is a troubled and unhappy man, and a talented and ingratiating one, who was puzzled and delighted by his own fame as he made headlines in the crime pages as well as the sports pages. Attila ought to be overjoyed by this hilarious, larger-than-life book portrait, but Rubinstein has also drawn a picture of a society that was battered by communism only to be let down by the capitalist bosses who took over. The hilarious tale is thus a sad one, too, for all its absurdity; hero criminals are only needed by the downtrodden.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Even with my anticipation it did not disappoint! 30 mars 2005
Par Nathan Zaugg - Publié sur
I had been waiting to hear the full story surrounding the Whisky Robber since I heard a bit about him in the summer of 1997 while I was living in Hungary. I followed his crime spree, arrest, escape, and recapture even after returning home, since I found something compelling in this brazen thief. When I heard about this book, I had to have it. It definitely did not disappoint.

Not only does Rubinstein write a compelling story in its "True Crime" aspects, he also paints an accurate picture of Hungary during the time of the crime spree. His book helped take me back to my time in Hungary from 1995-1997 and some of the absurdities that existed during that time and afterward.

However, the story of Atilla Ambrus was even more compelling. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. Now that I have read it, I can't stop telling everybody around me about it.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Calling it a Must Read doesn't really do the book justice 5 janvier 2005
Par Benjamin Newcomer - Publié sur
Attila Ambrus is king. True, he may not do so well with relationships. And his hockey goalie skills may leave much to be desired (though not his dedication), and he may have something of a compulsive personality when it comes to drinking and gambling.

But when it comes to robbery, he is the indisputable king.

(In Hungary in the 1990s, anyway.)

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is one of the best non-fiction books I've read. Ever. Hands down. In fact, it's one of the best non-fiction books I will ever read -- it's that good. By some outrageous fluke, Ballad marries truly excellent writing (that of Julian Rubinstein) to an outstanding true story (that of Whiskey Robber Attila Ambrus), a phenomenon that happens all too rarely.

Trying to find his way in the world and piece together a living, Attila Ambrus stumbles upon the fact that his quick mind is suited perfectly to robbing banks and post offices.

The story -- by which I mean the true life story, i.e., the story on which the book is based -- is itself nearly impossible to believe. When I say "nearly," just think: impossible. At numerous points throught the book, I honestly turned back to the front cover to double check the whole "true story" part, because I couldn't believe it.

Everything fits together perfectly.


Julian Rubinstein is an excellent storyteller, and Attila Ambrus is a perfect story-maker.

This is a book that you must read.

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