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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

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Ladies and gentlemen, meet Attila Ambrus, the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe. He's the one-time pelt smuggler, professional hockey goalie (possibly the worst in the sport's history), pen salesman, Zamboni driver, gravedigger, church painter, roulette addict, building superintendent, whiskey drinker, and native of Transylvania who's decided that the best thing to do with his Ladies and gentlemen, meet Attila Ambrus, the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe. He's the one-time pelt smuggler, professional hockey goalie (possibly the worst in the sport's history), pen salesman, Zamboni driver, gravedigger, church painter, roulette addict, building superintendent, whiskey drinker, and native of Transylvania who's decided that the best thing to do with his time is to rob as many banks as possible. His rival: Lajos Varjú, the Inspector Clouseau of the Iron Curtain, whose knowledge of police work comes from Hungarian-dubbed episodes of Columbo. His deputy is nicknamed "Mound of Asshead" because of his propensity for crashing police cars. His forensics expert, known as "Dance Instructor" for his lucrative side career teaching ballet, wears a top hat and tails on the job. Welcome to Julian Rubinstein's uproariously funny and unforgettable account of crime in the heart of the new Europe. With a supporting cast that includes car wash owners, exotic dancers, drunk army generals, cocaine-snorting Hungarian rappers, the Johnnie Cochran of Budapest, and a hockey team that seems to spend as much time breaking the law as it does practicing, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber gives us the most charming outlaw-hero since the Sundance Kid—and the Sundance Kid didn't play hockey. As the Eastern bloc slips off its communist skin and replaces it with leopard-skin hot pants, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is here to screw in the pink lightbulbs. Part Unbearable Lightness of Being, part Pink Panther, and part Slap Shot, Julian Rubinstein's tale is a spectacular literary debut—and a story so outrageous that it could only be true.


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Ladies and gentlemen, meet Attila Ambrus, the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe. He's the one-time pelt smuggler, professional hockey goalie (possibly the worst in the sport's history), pen salesman, Zamboni driver, gravedigger, church painter, roulette addict, building superintendent, whiskey drinker, and native of Transylvania who's decided that the best thing to do with his Ladies and gentlemen, meet Attila Ambrus, the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe. He's the one-time pelt smuggler, professional hockey goalie (possibly the worst in the sport's history), pen salesman, Zamboni driver, gravedigger, church painter, roulette addict, building superintendent, whiskey drinker, and native of Transylvania who's decided that the best thing to do with his time is to rob as many banks as possible. His rival: Lajos Varjú, the Inspector Clouseau of the Iron Curtain, whose knowledge of police work comes from Hungarian-dubbed episodes of Columbo. His deputy is nicknamed "Mound of Asshead" because of his propensity for crashing police cars. His forensics expert, known as "Dance Instructor" for his lucrative side career teaching ballet, wears a top hat and tails on the job. Welcome to Julian Rubinstein's uproariously funny and unforgettable account of crime in the heart of the new Europe. With a supporting cast that includes car wash owners, exotic dancers, drunk army generals, cocaine-snorting Hungarian rappers, the Johnnie Cochran of Budapest, and a hockey team that seems to spend as much time breaking the law as it does practicing, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber gives us the most charming outlaw-hero since the Sundance Kid—and the Sundance Kid didn't play hockey. As the Eastern bloc slips off its communist skin and replaces it with leopard-skin hot pants, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is here to screw in the pink lightbulbs. Part Unbearable Lightness of Being, part Pink Panther, and part Slap Shot, Julian Rubinstein's tale is a spectacular literary debut—and a story so outrageous that it could only be true.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hawkins

    A true gem. This book is the story of real-life Hungarian bank robber Attila Ambrus. His story alone would be worth five stars even told without flair--bank robberies! hockey! flight to freedom! But Rubenstein elevates the already unbelievable events with his masterful telling. Ballad is a crime-adventure comedy interwoven with slice-of-life journalism set in the proto-kleptocracy that was post-Soviet Hungary. Truly one of the best books I've ever read. Miraculously, the audiobook performance wa A true gem. This book is the story of real-life Hungarian bank robber Attila Ambrus. His story alone would be worth five stars even told without flair--bank robberies! hockey! flight to freedom! But Rubenstein elevates the already unbelievable events with his masterful telling. Ballad is a crime-adventure comedy interwoven with slice-of-life journalism set in the proto-kleptocracy that was post-Soviet Hungary. Truly one of the best books I've ever read. Miraculously, the audiobook performance was even better than the printed version. Highest possible recommendation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnne

    Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts Budapest, Hungary Hungary's most beloved criminal and one of the most memorable, fascinating and likable characters ever written about. The "whiskey robber" was a simple man named Attila Ambrus from a small village in eastern Transylvania, Romania. Attila Ambrus got into trouble at a very young age for petty theft. In 1988, he illegally crossed Romania's Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts Budapest, Hungary Hungary's most beloved criminal and one of the most memorable, fascinating and likable characters ever written about. The "whiskey robber" was a simple man named Attila Ambrus from a small village in eastern Transylvania, Romania. Attila Ambrus got into trouble at a very young age for petty theft. In 1988, he illegally crossed Romania's borders by riding underneath a freight train looking for a better life. The Whiskey Robber: Attila Ambrus In Hungary he made a living by doing all kinds of odd jobs, including being a gravedigger & pelt smuggler. He also tried out for a professional hockey team. Despite his terrible performance as a hockey player, he was given a spot on the team as a goalie while doubling as the team's janitor. Ambrus had trouble making ends meet even though he worked several jobs at once. Eventually he became so desperate for money he committed his first robbery of a post office in 1993. After the success of this one simple robbery, he continued with a string of 27 robberies of banks, post offices. He became known as the 'Whiskey Robber', because he was often seen drinking whiskey (Dutch courage) at a nearby pub prior to his robberies. The Whiskey Robber in action The Whiskey Robber became wildly popular and famous in Hungary for his robberies because of his very polite demeanor, his crazy disguises, his giving female bank tellers flowers prior to each robbery and for sending the police bottles of wine. A true gentleman! The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein is one of the most entertaining, bizarre, laugh-out-loud funniest books I have ever listened to on audible. Don't mis this one!

  3. 4 out of 5

    R.S. Carter

    He was the main conspirator in dozens of armed robberies in post-communist Hungary in the nineties, but the people of Hungary saw Attila Ambrus like this: He is the folk hero of Hungary, although he never redistributed his wealth. He stole from the state, but did pour the money back into the economy through his luxurious life style. Never violent, never intentionally harming a soul, giving the bank tellers flowers and maybe a little flirtation while he was half-in-the-bag, knee-walking drunk, Att He was the main conspirator in dozens of armed robberies in post-communist Hungary in the nineties, but the people of Hungary saw Attila Ambrus like this: He is the folk hero of Hungary, although he never redistributed his wealth. He stole from the state, but did pour the money back into the economy through his luxurious life style. Never violent, never intentionally harming a soul, giving the bank tellers flowers and maybe a little flirtation while he was half-in-the-bag, knee-walking drunk, Attila Ambrus evaded police detection while continuing his life as a pro hockey player for years. The story of Attila Ambrus is the most unbelievable true crime story I've ever read. His crime spree combined with the complete ineptitude of the ridiculous cast of characters who encompassed the shoddy police department was not only too good to be true, it was hilarious!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    This book is as fun to read as it is enlightening. Every once in a while there comes along a person who leads such an unlikely life that it would be impossible to invent them. In addition to the story of the protagonist himself, the story of post-communist Hungary is a major part of the book as well. Everything that you would need to put the life of Attila (the whiskey robber) in context of the world that he lived in is provided in vivid detail. This book would have been fascinating to me even w This book is as fun to read as it is enlightening. Every once in a while there comes along a person who leads such an unlikely life that it would be impossible to invent them. In addition to the story of the protagonist himself, the story of post-communist Hungary is a major part of the book as well. Everything that you would need to put the life of Attila (the whiskey robber) in context of the world that he lived in is provided in vivid detail. This book would have been fascinating to me even without the bank heists, ice hockey, Transylvanian pelt smuggling, moonlighting detectives and broken hearts, but it has all of that too! Others have written much more eloquent reviews of this book than I so I am hoping that my review will merely be seen as an embelishment of what others have said of this entertaining, enlightening, and possibly even rip-roaring book. Just know that I had fun AND learned a thing or two from reading it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    The audio edition of this book is fantastic--really a radio comedy/drama. It is introduced by Attila Ambrus himself, the eponymous Whiskey Robber, as he served time in jail for his string of non-violent bank robberies in Budapest in the 1990s. The author is the main narrator, with voices supplied by a wildly diverse array of people from comedians Dmetri Martin and Eugene Mirman to author Gary Shteyngart, and music by One Ring Zero. It is the crazy-but-true story of how Attila, a hapless and basic The audio edition of this book is fantastic--really a radio comedy/drama. It is introduced by Attila Ambrus himself, the eponymous Whiskey Robber, as he served time in jail for his string of non-violent bank robberies in Budapest in the 1990s. The author is the main narrator, with voices supplied by a wildly diverse array of people from comedians Dmetri Martin and Eugene Mirman to author Gary Shteyngart, and music by One Ring Zero. It is the crazy-but-true story of how Attila, a hapless and basically unpaid professional hockey goalie (as well as a pen salesman, pelt smuggler, and serious drinker and would-be high roller), applied himself to the profession of bank robbery, becoming a national folk hero as he left the overworked and under-equipped police sputtering in his wake. Great characters, detailed reporting, and a wry style drive the story along irresistibly. The author even manages to work in a quick background history of Hungary and paints a cynical picture of 1990s Budapest, when the influx of western-style capitalism only changed the style of corruption. Haven't read the book in book form, but I can highly recommend the audio version as a most enjoyable roller-coaster ride.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rincey

    3.5 stars. This is a fun book, and even more fun on audio.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pat Cooney

    While the title and descriptions will suggest to you that this is a book about a criminal ice hockey goaltender who also was a smuggler - and it is, don't you worry - it's selling itself short. This is a book about postcommunist Hungary, particularly Budapest, and is told with amazing love and care through the lens of one Atilla Ambrus who very well might become your favorite bank robber. While Rubinstein does such a good job of describing Hungarian culture and identity - to the point that I fee While the title and descriptions will suggest to you that this is a book about a criminal ice hockey goaltender who also was a smuggler - and it is, don't you worry - it's selling itself short. This is a book about postcommunist Hungary, particularly Budapest, and is told with amazing love and care through the lens of one Atilla Ambrus who very well might become your favorite bank robber. While Rubinstein does such a good job of describing Hungarian culture and identity - to the point that I feel as if I've actually been to Hungary, watched Hungarian TV, and hung out in their bars late into the night - he misses slightly when writing about hockey, which never becomes as tangible a subject to the reader. That is my only complaint, however, and I can't think of a single person who I wouldn't recommend this book to or who wouldn't enjoy its crazy adventures and amazingly charismatic factual protagonist. There were times that, even in his criminality, I was inspired by Atilla, a man who didn't let a country trying to define itself define him in any way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Chapman

    This debut is the perfect summer read: compelling as hell, witty, illuminating, and really unbelievable for a nonfiction title. This is the story of Attila Ambrus, who in the 1990's in Hungary started as the most dedicated and talentless professional hockey goalie in the world, moonlighting first as a Transylvanian pelt smuggler and then as Eastern Europe's most legendary bank robber. Filled with incredible details, from his habit of robbing while blisteringly drunk to the ubiquitous corruption This debut is the perfect summer read: compelling as hell, witty, illuminating, and really unbelievable for a nonfiction title. This is the story of Attila Ambrus, who in the 1990's in Hungary started as the most dedicated and talentless professional hockey goalie in the world, moonlighting first as a Transylvanian pelt smuggler and then as Eastern Europe's most legendary bank robber. Filled with incredible details, from his habit of robbing while blisteringly drunk to the ubiquitous corruption ballooning on the police side of the law, this is the kind of book you impress upon friends. Rubenstein deftly balances the geopolitical climate with Ambrus's rise and fall, sometimes with prose almost too witty. But you can forgive him that—anyone who comes into contact with Ambrus inherits his sense of daring and bravado. So go read it already.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I loved this book. I thought all the voices were so funny and entertaining. I would laugh right out loud. I can’t believe how truly unbelievable this story is. I don’t want to call the Whiskey Robber lucky or smart but that’s what I kept thinking the whole time!!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I had to let this one set for a bit before I could decide what to write in a review. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, it was like listening to radio theatre! This is the true story of Attila Ambrus, a Hungarian pro hockey player who was also leading a double life as the notorious whisky robber. Even without the robbery Ambrus had a very interesting life. He snuck into Hungary riding under a train car. He worked many odd jobs while he tried to gain citizenship. One of which was a zamboni driver w I had to let this one set for a bit before I could decide what to write in a review. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, it was like listening to radio theatre! This is the true story of Attila Ambrus, a Hungarian pro hockey player who was also leading a double life as the notorious whisky robber. Even without the robbery Ambrus had a very interesting life. He snuck into Hungary riding under a train car. He worked many odd jobs while he tried to gain citizenship. One of which was a zamboni driver which turned into hockey player when one day the team needed a substitute. He always seemed to have plenty of money but his teammates never questioned it. Many Hungarians had side jobs in the gray area of legal and it was better not to know. Ambrus would plan his robberies for months and was able to carry them off with precision even while drunk on whisky, hence his nickname. It helped that the police force at the time seemed to be on the level of the pink panther. After one robbery he even spent time asking the police where they were rushing to as he stood there holding a bag of stolen cash! As time went on he would bring flowers and flirt with the female tellers. He would also send taunting packages to the detective on his trail. This is a very entertaining true crime story. It's not often that you root for the criminal while laughing at his capers!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Craig Dube

    The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber was pitched to our bookclub as a non-ficton that reads like fiction. I find this to be a very accurate assessment. The story is of Attila Ambrus, a young man who immigrates from Romania to Hungary to carve out a new life. When he comes to Hungary, he makes his way onto the local semi-pro hockey team as both a janitor and a 3rd string goalie. Attila struggles to make ends meet until he stumbles across the lucrative profession of pelt smuggling. However the pelt sm The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber was pitched to our bookclub as a non-ficton that reads like fiction. I find this to be a very accurate assessment. The story is of Attila Ambrus, a young man who immigrates from Romania to Hungary to carve out a new life. When he comes to Hungary, he makes his way onto the local semi-pro hockey team as both a janitor and a 3rd string goalie. Attila struggles to make ends meet until he stumbles across the lucrative profession of pelt smuggling. However the pelt smuggling business peters out not long afterwards and Attila is forced to find a new means of making ends meet. His choice? Bank robbery. The book details Attila exploits and the exploits of the police around him as the try to capture (and recapture) him. Attila becomes known as the Whiskey Robber as a result of his often downing whiskeys in nearby bars prior to the bank heists. He also becomes seen as a local Robin Hood type folk hero to the people of Hungary; although this moniker seems to be more marketing than reality as Attila didn't really return the money to the people but spent it with reckless abandon on gambling, travel and women. The story itself is both fascinating and entertaining. The author enhances this experience by choosing to focus on some of the more ridiculous and sublime characters and elements. An example is his use of nicknames for all the police men. While I'm sure that they may have been referred to one another by these names at one time or another, having detectives referenced as Dance Instructor and Mound of Asshead makes for a very silly read. This humorous point of view often comes into play when the author explains the current political environment in Hungary and world abroad. As it is written, I think most will find themselves routing for Attila, which is what I believe the author intended. I'm sure that another author could take this same story and putting a different spin on it, make Attila seem entirely more dangerous and villainous. Regardless if you root for or against Attila, I think most will enjoy this story and be highly entertained. I was.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I have recommended this book more times than I can count! julian rubinstein writes a page-turning history, of a man, a place, and a series of events that proves once again that real life is stranger than fiction! THE BEST! You'll be in post communist Budapest / Hungary / Romania during the 1990's. One reviewer said of it: "I love this book for giving me insight into a country I had little knowledge of". Another reviewer said he saw "Atilla Ambrus – as a doorway to the bigger story, that of the t I have recommended this book more times than I can count! julian rubinstein writes a page-turning history, of a man, a place, and a series of events that proves once again that real life is stranger than fiction! THE BEST! You'll be in post communist Budapest / Hungary / Romania during the 1990's. One reviewer said of it: "I love this book for giving me insight into a country I had little knowledge of". Another reviewer said he saw "Atilla Ambrus – as a doorway to the bigger story, that of the tragedy of the wild east". julian rubinstein writes on his webpage that: "BALLAD OF THE WHISKEY ROBBER was named to Hollywood's 'Black List', a studio poll of the industry's best screenplays in development. It is being produced by Johnny Depp and Warner Bros." Read this before the movie comes out, you wont be sorry you did!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marieke

    I wasn't expecting this to be this good. First, i'd never heard of the subject, Atilla Ambrus. I was alive and well at the end of the Soviet era and totally into Eastern and Central European stuff. how did i miss this story? Thank you Julian Rubinstein for making sure it didn't slip by me. Second, i was alarmed when i heard the long list of readers at the beginning of the recording. Normally i don't go in for that type of audio book, but this was done so incredibly well i want to give this book I wasn't expecting this to be this good. First, i'd never heard of the subject, Atilla Ambrus. I was alive and well at the end of the Soviet era and totally into Eastern and Central European stuff. how did i miss this story? Thank you Julian Rubinstein for making sure it didn't slip by me. Second, i was alarmed when i heard the long list of readers at the beginning of the recording. Normally i don't go in for that type of audio book, but this was done so incredibly well i want to give this book five stars twice, once for the writing, and once for the performance. Cabaret is a perfect description of it. You can check it out here and then get yourself the full-length audio book and see if you don't fall in love with Atilla, too. The most likeable worst hockey goalie turned bank robber in history. (i'm just trusting that this is him, btw.) and who wouldn't like a little contemporary klezmer music for interlude music?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Skane

    Wow. A true crime story that reads better than fiction. I can see why the country of Hungary fell in love with him. The gentleman Whiskey Robber, the folk hero of the masses, Attila Ambrus. Full review: Ballad of the Whiskey Robber Book Review. Wow. A true crime story that reads better than fiction. I can see why the country of Hungary fell in love with him. The gentleman Whiskey Robber, the folk hero of the masses, Attila Ambrus. Full review: Ballad of the Whiskey Robber Book Review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    The saga of an alcoholic hockey player turned polite bank robber, who became a news sensation and Hungarian national hero by evading the local and international police for so long. It’s an unbelievable (view spoiler)[(why did he insist on hitting the same places multiple times?) (hide spoiler)] but quite funny story, dragging a little in the middle. The saga of an alcoholic hockey player turned polite bank robber, who became a news sensation and Hungarian national hero by evading the local and international police for so long. It’s an unbelievable (view spoiler)[(why did he insist on hitting the same places multiple times?) (hide spoiler)] but quite funny story, dragging a little in the middle.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sonal

    This was an absolutely extraordinary story, totally unbelievable yet true. To be honest, I had no clue about Attila Ambrus, never read or heard about him and had no intention of reading his life story. This book came up in a blog as a must read before travelling to Budapest so I bought it before my trip a few years ago and completely forgot about it. After Beartown, this book caught my attention just because of Ice hockey and surprise!! even this one had little to do with the actual sport :P Thi This was an absolutely extraordinary story, totally unbelievable yet true. To be honest, I had no clue about Attila Ambrus, never read or heard about him and had no intention of reading his life story. This book came up in a blog as a must read before travelling to Budapest so I bought it before my trip a few years ago and completely forgot about it. After Beartown, this book caught my attention just because of Ice hockey and surprise!! even this one had little to do with the actual sport :P This book is very well written. It's fun to read and actually feels more like a whimsical and folklorish tale. Attila who fled from Transylvania to Budapest somehow manages to become an unpaid goalie in the local ice hockey team, works as a janitor, sells parker pens to make ends meet. For a better chance at life, takes up pelt smuggling then shifts to less risky business of robbery which becomes more of an addiction. A robber who is always drunk is elegant, graceful (takes flowers to a heist) and kind of comical ultimately becomes a hero for the nation. When the entire country is swept by economic slump, poverty and massive corruption after the fall of communism; the Whiskey Robber emerges with a robin hood image. This real-life story was even better than the best of thriller heist movies. Along with the biography, the author also gives a glimpse of the post-soviet condition of Romania & Hungary. A great history lesson as well!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    This is a fun and hilarious portrait of a bank robber in the 1980's and 90's. The political climate of Romania and Budapest is also discussed, as well as the American influence on Eastern European culture at the time of the fall of communism. Great history lesson for me! The audiobook had a great cast of characters and had me laughing often. This is a fun and hilarious portrait of a bank robber in the 1980's and 90's. The political climate of Romania and Budapest is also discussed, as well as the American influence on Eastern European culture at the time of the fall of communism. Great history lesson for me! The audiobook had a great cast of characters and had me laughing often.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    **2.5**The writing just didn't work for me. I also feel like I went into this one with very high expectations from some high praise, I was expecting a lot more and was somewhat disappointed that it didn't work well for me. I seem to be in the minority however so it might just be me. **2.5**The writing just didn't work for me. I also feel like I went into this one with very high expectations from some high praise, I was expecting a lot more and was somewhat disappointed that it didn't work well for me. I seem to be in the minority however so it might just be me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

    I had no idea that Hungary was considered at one time something like the scourge of Europe, at least I got that impression from reading this. Here's a little of the start of the book: Hungary has always been unlucky. In the approximately eleven hundred years since the handlebar mustachioed Chief Árpád rode into the Carpathian basin in 896 and founded Hungary, the country has been plundered so relentlessly that defeat could be considered the national pastime." The author then goes on to recount ho I had no idea that Hungary was considered at one time something like the scourge of Europe, at least I got that impression from reading this. Here's a little of the start of the book: Hungary has always been unlucky. In the approximately eleven hundred years since the handlebar mustachioed Chief Árpád rode into the Carpathian basin in 896 and founded Hungary, the country has been plundered so relentlessly that defeat could be considered the national pastime." The author then goes on to recount how Hungary has been on the wrong side of every war. Fun stuff not, but at least they have lots of one of my favorite spices, paprika. All of this mini history is just a backdrop to this true story about a young Hungarian man who escaped Romania to become a janitor and eventually a really bad goalie for the Hungarian National Hockey team while committing bank & post office robberies on the side. The story is interesting even if the writing is a little plodding. Attila Ambrus is portrayed here as almost a folk hero. He dons various disguises using wigs and manages to elude the police robbing about 26 establishments before being caught. This all happens during a unique time in Hungarian history in the 1990's after the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism and as the country struggled economically with the after effects of new freedoms and losses (like of govt health care). The people take to Attila because they feel like they're being robbed by their government & their politicians anyway. They watch as Attila totally befuddles the police and their Robbery Division Chief and cheer, especially when he makes a daring escape after his first arrest. Why are bank robbers so romanticized? Who knows. It may have helped that Attila was telegenically handsome (even with his odd disguises) and polite with the people he robbed. At one of them he even bought flowers. In the end totally fun story that had you rooting for the criminal to get away. Alas he was caught and imprisoned. He was, though, just released from prison in 2012 so who knows there may be the rest of the story to tell. Crazy but true story with lots and lots of heavy drinking involved (that's why whiskey is in the title). This would make a great movie. (photos is included in the book)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This book is totally nuts, in a good way. Imagine if the movie Airplane were instead about a serial bank robber. That's the way this true-crime story reads. Very few times and places had the combination of societal and individual volatility of Eastern Europe in the 1990's, and author Rubinstein does a good job of convincing the reader that Hungary was the maddest of the mad-cap countries freed from the yoke of Soviet-style communism. I cannot really discuss much about the characters or the plot wi This book is totally nuts, in a good way. Imagine if the movie Airplane were instead about a serial bank robber. That's the way this true-crime story reads. Very few times and places had the combination of societal and individual volatility of Eastern Europe in the 1990's, and author Rubinstein does a good job of convincing the reader that Hungary was the maddest of the mad-cap countries freed from the yoke of Soviet-style communism. I cannot really discuss much about the characters or the plot without giving away surprises and delights. The Whiskey Robber is a Transylvanian-born immigrant who is the unpaid second-goaltender (and Zamboni driver) for a team in the Hungarian professional hockey league. He robs to fuel the high life of gambling, women, and travel. He is pursued by a completely inept police force - in support of this, I need only point to the fact that one of the top officers in the robbery unit is a character known by the Hungarian nickname "Mound of Asshead," who appears to be most gifted at crashing automobiles. The story is unbelievably crazy. Nearly every character, no matter how minor, is colorful and odd. And yet, Rubinstein makes these people real to the extent that the reader experiences pathos and begins to understand why the Whiskey Robber becomes a bigger-than-life folk hero and a symbol of those topsy-turvy times. Recommended for anyone wanting a fun read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    eleen ✨

    Definitely less about hockey than I thought it would be, but such a great book. Rubinstein makes this story so engrossing, writing in a way that's humorous but still gets the story across. He tells the story like it's fiction. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is organised in 3 parts plus overtime. The first period is about Attila Ambrus, Whiskey Robber, and his early life in Transylvania, which was Not Good. The second period is about his life in Hungary, as an awful goalie for a crap team, but most Definitely less about hockey than I thought it would be, but such a great book. Rubinstein makes this story so engrossing, writing in a way that's humorous but still gets the story across. He tells the story like it's fiction. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is organised in 3 parts plus overtime. The first period is about Attila Ambrus, Whiskey Robber, and his early life in Transylvania, which was Not Good. The second period is about his life in Hungary, as an awful goalie for a crap team, but mostly as a robber. And then the third period + overtime is his time in jail, and also his resolute honesty in court. In addition to telling the story of Attila's fruitful bank robbing career, Rubinstein also paints a good picture of Hungarian history, and how they seem to just keep losing. Recently (presently it's January 2019) there's been a lot of news about strikes in Hungary, with headlines such as “Hungary's unions threaten strikes as anti-Orban protests resume” (we read about multiple Orbáns in the book, but this one is the PM). So it seems as if things still aren't going so well. Also looking at the images on the Whiskey Robber website really supplements Rubinstein's writing. His description of Ambrus's beard whilst in jail is honestly really apt. In some pictures I'm really reminded of Ovechkin of the Caps. Anyway, 10/10 would recommend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan Spencer

    You just can't make up stuff like this. This mesmerizing tale reads like fictional satire, but it's all true. With his exquisitely detailed writing, Rubinstein immerses readers into Hungarian culture circa the post-Communist 1990s. You can tell the author loved delving into this bizarre story, which takes us Westerners into a cubbyhole of the world we rarely see. (When people talk of the Third World... well, Hungary could be described as the Second World; not completely backwater but riddled wit You just can't make up stuff like this. This mesmerizing tale reads like fictional satire, but it's all true. With his exquisitely detailed writing, Rubinstein immerses readers into Hungarian culture circa the post-Communist 1990s. You can tell the author loved delving into this bizarre story, which takes us Westerners into a cubbyhole of the world we rarely see. (When people talk of the Third World... well, Hungary could be described as the Second World; not completely backwater but riddled with corruption and weirdness.) Attila Ambrus's character arc is wonderfully strange. He begins as an oppressed, indigent, gray nobody who bumbles his way onto a professional (?) hockey team, intelligently schemes his way through numerous bank heists, eludes the law while he gambles away his booty, becomes an underground folk hero, and winds up as a well-read inmate who maintains his honesty and cheekiness. As complex and full of contradictions as any fictional character. A classic charming scofflaw. Add a cast of ludicrous true-life supporting characters, wacky escapades involving hockey and too much whiskey, a daring yet nonviolent crime spree, and a heaping helping of paprika. The result is a satisfying goulash that will make you wish for second helpings. A book you'll never forget.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is quite a complex true tale that Rubinstein briliantly weaves intertwining the corrupt politics of 1990 Hungary, Ice Hockey, Bank heists and just trying to make ends meet month to month (paycheck to paycheck or heist to heist). I guess that is why it was given the title it was given. Don't be overwhelmed by the list of characters provided to you in the beginning of the book. It really isn't that hard to remember who is who, due to the fact that as some new characters fade in, others fade o This is quite a complex true tale that Rubinstein briliantly weaves intertwining the corrupt politics of 1990 Hungary, Ice Hockey, Bank heists and just trying to make ends meet month to month (paycheck to paycheck or heist to heist). I guess that is why it was given the title it was given. Don't be overwhelmed by the list of characters provided to you in the beginning of the book. It really isn't that hard to remember who is who, due to the fact that as some new characters fade in, others fade out. I think what made this even better for me was that it was true, and it had a vibe of political history with it. A good amount of amusent is provided by the poorly equipped and possibly corrupt police department who continuosly is at least one step behind each of these bank heists.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patti Meyerdirk

    Having lived in the neighboring country of Slovakia during this time period and now living in the city of the setting, this was an incredible read to me! It brought insight into the culture and thinking of those around me that I had not had before reading it. I was also able to relate to much of the atmosphere and ways of the people. The author was very accurate in his descriptions of the people, culture, and setting. His understanding of the transition from communistic rule to a democratic soci Having lived in the neighboring country of Slovakia during this time period and now living in the city of the setting, this was an incredible read to me! It brought insight into the culture and thinking of those around me that I had not had before reading it. I was also able to relate to much of the atmosphere and ways of the people. The author was very accurate in his descriptions of the people, culture, and setting. His understanding of the transition from communistic rule to a democratic society was excellent. His writing style was also engaging. This is a book that I will probably reread someday.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    On top of the fact that the story is inherently fascinating (and true), the historical, political and social context of the book is thoroughly enjoyable due to the author's dry humor. Such humor even helps to express the plight of the post-Soviet Hungarian. The absurd descriptions of the police force would make the sternest reader smile and the history and politics will interest even the most avid renouncer of history. The story and its tone give the reader an overall endearing look at how Budap On top of the fact that the story is inherently fascinating (and true), the historical, political and social context of the book is thoroughly enjoyable due to the author's dry humor. Such humor even helps to express the plight of the post-Soviet Hungarian. The absurd descriptions of the police force would make the sternest reader smile and the history and politics will interest even the most avid renouncer of history. The story and its tone give the reader an overall endearing look at how Budapest adjusted to capitalism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom Buske

    This book was great. I don't know which made me laugh more, the main character being so drunk when robbing a bank that he slurred his words so badly that the tellers just laughed at him or one of the Keystone Kops chasing him being nicknamed "Mound of Assshead". All this set against a backdrop of post-Communist Hungary trying to adapt to a capitalist economy and a democratic government. All in all, an extremely enjoyable read. This book was great. I don't know which made me laugh more, the main character being so drunk when robbing a bank that he slurred his words so badly that the tellers just laughed at him or one of the Keystone Kops chasing him being nicknamed "Mound of Assshead". All this set against a backdrop of post-Communist Hungary trying to adapt to a capitalist economy and a democratic government. All in all, an extremely enjoyable read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Ok, so normally I don't write reviews for Goodreads—got to save the big thoughts for the paying customers. But this book is the first I have given a five star rating to. It is funny, astonishing, and incredibly reported. I read it in absolute awe. Julian Rubinstein pulled off something awesome. Read it now. Ok, so normally I don't write reviews for Goodreads—got to save the big thoughts for the paying customers. But this book is the first I have given a five star rating to. It is funny, astonishing, and incredibly reported. I read it in absolute awe. Julian Rubinstein pulled off something awesome. Read it now.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kirsti

    Tragic yet funny. This is the amazing true story of how the worst goalie ever to play professional ice hockey discovered that he was a very talented bank robber--though he had to get drunk to go through with each heist. I listened to the audio version, which is very ambitious and has lots of famous voice actors and sound effects and music.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pat/rick

    The subtitle says so much, so truthfully. The book promises and delivers. We would find it hard to create a more unlikely hero or a more bizarre, compelling story. Post-communist implosion and Wild West vigilanteism meet Robin Hood, Zorro, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wyatt

    One of the better works of non-fiction I've read recently. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Just a fun, fast-paced read. And if Scott is telling the truth, apparently they're making it a movie. So it's got that going for it, which is nice. One of the better works of non-fiction I've read recently. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Just a fun, fast-paced read. And if Scott is telling the truth, apparently they're making it a movie. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

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