Friday, December 17, 2021

72. Where the Money Was by Willie Sutton

The paperback find of the year, arguably of the decade!  I've been scouring little libraries and book stores during these covid times, mainly in Montreal and Berkeley and it has been fun but no real mind-blowing  find until this one.  It was at the free shelf outside of Latina  on St-Viateur among a few older true crime paperbacks.  I have had this one on my list since I started the blog after reading that it was a big influence on Westlake's Parker character.  That is an exciting and satisfying moment when you finally stumble upon a real treasure.  One does a slow motion doubletake in one's head, "is this really what it looks like?  IT IS!!!"

I'm happy to report that the book itself is an enjoyable read.  It's surprisingly long.  Sutton spent most of his life in jail so this book actually has more prison escapes than bank robberies.  In the last third, as he gets older and sicker, he uses legal techniques to try and get out of jail.  This part drags a bit but you are invested so much at this point, that you want to find out what happens.  The best part for me are the bank robberies at the beginning.  It does seem like Sutton was brought into this world to heist banks.  He is like the Michael Jordan of bank robbery.  Beyond the anti-authoritarian appeal of the bank robber, Sutton never used violence and was a charming and stylish guy so he became pretty famous (which helped to get him out of jail early).

The description of the prisons are very informative about the corruption and cruelty at that time and how easily the prison-guard relation can turn into (or maybe always is) abuse.  It was just known that when you got arrested in Brooklyn, you were going to get a serious beating as part of your "interrogation".  When Sutton finally gets arrested the beating is insane (the cops are extra mad because he made them look bad).  Was painful to be reading the descriptions of the brutality in Attica and Sing Sing at the same time that Eric Adams just announced he is going to reinstate solitary in Ryker's.

As I say, I am more of a heist guy than prison escape guy, but the escapes in this book are wild.  There is a failed one trying to find the exit of a sewer tunnel that had me almost nauseous with stress.  Sutton just had no fear!  He goes through a 38" wide tunnel that slowly gets higher and higher with shit and piss and medical waste naked carrying a flashlight and a metal pole.  When there is only like a few inches of clearance and he still hasn't found the exit, so he ducks down and tries to swim for it!  

This book needs a reprint.  Still very relevant today for both fiction and non-fiction reasons.


thingmaker said...

Sounds interesting. And there's a copy online as an e-pub.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That's good to know. But this paperback IRL version is my precious! :)