The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein
After escaping grim Romania for more liberal Hungary in the late '80s Attila Ambrus found that living on his wits wasn't getting him very far. Becoming goalie/janitor for a third-division ice hockey team brought no fortune and little glory: he was the least successful player in the country's least successful squad. His moneymaking ruses -- fur smuggling, gravedigging, roulette -- fared little better. Then a night of whiskey drinking led him to holding a bank up with a plastic gun while wearing a fright wig -- and the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe was born.This is the extraordinary tale of 29 robberies as cackhandedly conducted by Attila and his ice-hockey henchmen as they were investigated by Lajos Varju, the Iron Curtain's answer to Inspector Clouseau. Varju's inspiration is Columbo; he is assisted by a ballet-teacher forensics expert who wears a top hat and tails on the job. Thus for 27 of his heists Attila gets away -- and after a jail breakout still manages a couple more.Stories abound of Eastern Europe slipping off its communist skin and slipping on leopard-skin hotpants, but it's a story like this that really screws in the lightbulbs.In Julian Rubinstein's tale anti-hero Attila is immortalized as the most charming outlaw since the Sundance Kid, and we're all invited to his zany party.