Sometimes truth really is stranger (and
more interesting) than fiction—like in this thoroughly researched yet often unbelievable
book about a professional hockey player turned legendary bank robber.
1988, Transylvanian Attila Ambrus arrived in Hungary, after a daring escape from Romania,
with little more than the clothes on his back and his dream of a better life. After
begging for a try-out with Budapest’s professional hockey team, the eager yet
not-so-talented Attila was given an unpaid position as the team’s janitor, Zamboni
driver, and backup goalie. No matter how many legitimate side jobs Attila took, he
couldn’t seem to make enough money to survive—so, like many others in Hungary at the
time, he began working riskier, higher-paying jobs. When his pelt-smuggling job fell
through, he needed a way to maintain the lifestyle he’d become used to, so he took up
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is the true story of
Attila’s rise from penniless illegal immigrant to a sort of Hungarian hero—the mysterious
Whiskey Robber, who stole the hearts of bank tellers, TV hosts, and the Hungarian people
while repeatedly fending off the Hungarian police.
Rubinstein does an
excellent job of telling this spellbinding story in effortless, novel-like style,
complete with a full cast of colorful characters. At the same time, however, he also
throws in plenty of history lessons and provides memorable North American reference
points—everything from movies that were playing at the time, to American political
events, to the reports of Wayne Gretzky’s new million-dollar home, while his Hungarian
counterparts took on second and third jobs just to make ends meet—to remind you that it’s
not just another work of fiction.
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is
a book that you’ll have a hard time putting down—and an even harder time forgetting.