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Willie The Actor [Paperback]

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Item description for Willie The Actor by David Barry...

Loosely based on a true story, 'Willie the Actor' is a novel about an ordinary man leading an extraordinary double-life of crime. His story, which has a theatrical touch to it, begins in New York in the Roaring Twenties and spans two and a half decades. Bill Sutton's career as a bank robber was unique: he never resorts to violence or fires a gun in his life. But it was believed that he was jinxed, and almost everyone he works with comes to a violent end. Married for only a year, he explains his sudden wealth to his wife by telling her it was an inheritance from a rich uncle. Soon after, police intrude on his domestic bliss with his new born baby. He is shopped by his accomplice's wife, enraged because of her husband's philandering. After serving a year in Sing Sing, he escapes. Now known to the newspapers as Willie the Actor, because of the modus operandi of his robberies, using a mythical drama school to hire uniforms at theatrical costumiers, he continues to rob banks. In 1932, his accomplices are chased and shot by the police, and Bill is himself caught and sentenced to between 25 and 50 years at Eastern State Penitentiary - one of the toughest jails in the country. After three unsuccessful escape attempts, each time being given a longer sentence added to the original, in 1947 he escapes again. He manages to go straight for five years, working in an old people's home, under a new identity, but he meets a former associate and passes on details of an easy bank to rob. The robbery carries Bill's hallmark, and he is caught and ironically given the biggest sentence of his career for the one bank job he hasn't done. During his first escape from Sing Sing, he had sent his daughter a Happy Birthday telegram. Visiting her father in jail, she shows him the telegram which she has kept all those years, because deep down she knows him to be a good man who loves her, and he is finally reconciled with the one person he most loves and trusts, and will stay loyal to him. Prior to his trial, Sutton becomes a popular figure, attaining a Robin Hood-like status. But the man who spotted him on the subway and informed the police, is shot in each eye, the traditional way of dealing with informers. Following this crime, although no one really believed that the gentle Sutton had anything to do with it, he loses public sympathy. At the age of 52, he is sentenced to 30 years to life. Everyone Sutton comes into contact with likes him. Even the prison warden tells him, 'You know, Bill, I think if you gave me your word not to escape, I could let you cut the grass on the outside.' Sutton smiles and replies: 'Ah, but you know, I'd never give you my word, Warden.' As well as a fictionalized story of crime and an escape drama, Willie the Actor is also a chronicle of the times, as Sutton makes his criminal ways surrounded by figures such as real life gangsters like the notorious Dutch Schultz, through prohibition and the Depression to the early Fifties.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   284
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.95" Width: 4.8" Height: 0.79"
Weight:   0.62 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 24, 2007
Publisher   libros international
ISBN  1905988192  
ISBN13  9781905988198  

Availability  0 units.

More About David Barry

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David Barry was born in 1949.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

Reviews - What do customers think about Willie The Actor?

A Fine Debut  May 8, 2008
Barry approaches the difficult task of fictionalising a person who actually existed and in Willie the Actor pens a first class debut novel spanning nearly fifty years. That in itself is also difficult and normally I find similar books less than compelling reading. Not with Barry's book though! I couldn't wait to turn the page and Barry's characterisation of the 'failed' and compassionate criminal 'Willie' is impeccable. This book is a movie waiting to happen and one hell of a yarn, nothing would give me great pleasure than to see this book and character hit the big screen. Another cracking find from Libros International
Willie the Actor was a fun, easy read  Mar 3, 2008
Quoting from the back cover:

"Glancing quickly over the bar, he saw the bartender lying face down in a pool of blood, senselessly gunned down simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"New York City in the prohibition era, and Bill Sutton's wife thinks he earns an honest crust as a rent collector. Instead, he leads an extraordinary double-life as 'Willie the Actor', a notorious bank robber.

"Based on a true story, the novel's protagonist is a gentle gunman who never once fires a shot. But it was believed he was jinxed and almost everyone he works with comes to a violent end."

Willie the Actor was a fun, easy read, and David Barry, actor turned author, writes with a captivating style. The novel is well-written and well-edited. If you enjoy stories about the prohibition era, burglaries and bank robberies, you'll most likely enjoy this book.

Kaye Trout
..because that's where the money is..  Feb 27, 2008
At one level Willie The Actor by David Barry is a crime novel in which a ruthless criminal commits bank robberies. On another it achieves the feel of dramatised documentary, for its eponymous anti-hero, William Sutton, is not fictitious and lived a real life. David Barry introduces us to Willy in 1923 and we bid him farewell in 1976. And it's a farewell that is fonder than the reader might have been expected at the outset.

Willie The Actor is not a "who dunnit" in any sense, because at no point in the book are we left in any doubt about who is perpetrating the robberies. We even have an insider's description of his crimes, a rationale and a plan for their execution. It's Willie, of course, who is behind them. They are his claim to fame, a fame that the novel fills out. Willie, or William, or Bill - however we meet him - did not commit one of the robberies, however, and that one proves to be a particularly important one for him and his future. In this case we find him falsely accused and wrongly convicted. He was innocent and yet he was positively and definitively identified by a string of eye-witnesses. A touch of irony here.

Willie The Actor is not even very good at being a criminal. Yes, he succeeds in the short-term and money passes through his hands. But then he always fails, in that he usually gets caught.

Bill Sutton's first forays into armed robbery are facilitated by rented outfits by means of which an accomplice impersonates various forms of officialdom. To cover their rental of this gear, the pair establish a bogus theatre school, an operation that obviously needs to rent costumes on a regular basis. Hence Bill Sutton is labelled with his nickname, Willie The Actor, in media reports of his antics.

But still, he is a criminal. He mixes with some unsavoury sorts, hoodlums, gangsters, extortionists, racketeers. Many of these acquaintances, partners or employers think nothing of shooting to get their own way. They maim, kill and deform human obstacles that even threaten to bar their path.

But not Willie. He is different. He is an almost honourable thief who might threaten violence but never uses it. He even displays a gentility, a compassion which eventually allows him to go straight for a number of years, holding down a poorly paid job in a care home for the elderly.

David Barry's portrayal of this enigmatic character is subtle in that his criminal is always on the brink of achieving a respectability for which, we sense, he yearns. He is capable of love, whereas his partners in crime often exploit and oppress their women. He could have become a devoted and loyal father, but circumstances apparently require him to take a different route. And, perhaps most enigmatically of all, he might even have aspired to academic achievement, as evidenced by his life-long love of literature.

But it is not to be. In the end Willie is both debt-free and penniless. He has harmed no-one directly, but also perpetrated serious criminal acts. He has realised none of his talents, but has achieved undeniable infamy. And eventually he aspires to the humdrum commonplace of the ordinary, a luxury his apparent need to rob has previously always denied him.

David Barry conveys this complexity with a true lightness of touch. We never really get to know William Sutton, however. This is not a criticism of the book, because we are left with the impression that neither did anyone else.

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