Extended Audio Sample

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

Extended Audio Sample Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts Audiobook, by Julian Rubinstein
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,312 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Julian Rubinstein Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2006 ISBN: 9781594834936
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Elmore Leonard meets Franz Kafka in the wild, improbably true story of the legendary outlaw of Budapest. Attila Ambrus was a gentleman thief, a sort of Cary Grant—if only Grant came from Transylvania, was a terrible professional hockey goalkeeper, and preferred women in leopard-skin hot pants. During the 1990s, while playing for the biggest hockey team in Budapest, Ambrus took up bank robbery to make ends meet. Arrayed against him was perhaps the most incompetent team of crime investigators the Eastern Bloc had ever seen: a robbery chief who had learned how to be a detective by watching dubbed Columbo episodes; a forensics man who wore top hat and tails on the job; and a driver so inept he was known only by a Hungarian word that translates to Mound of Ass-Head. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is the completely bizarre and hysterical story of the crime spree that made a nobody into a somebody, and told a forlorn nation that sometimes the brightest stars come from the blackest holes. Like The Professor and the Madman and The Orchid Thief, Julian Rubinstein’s bizarre crime story is so odd and so wicked that it is completely irresistible.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Rubinstein has found a story of the sort that would make even the most dry-mouthed journalist slobber. Sometimes sad, often hilarious and always absurd, Ambrus's tale microcosmically condenses the politico-historic oddities of his place and era into one entertaining and tidy narrative... With a keen eye for the ridiculous, fearlessly high-speed prose and an extraordinary wealth of reported detail, Rubinstein conducts the affair like an unusually thoughtful carnival barker. New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
  • Outrageously entertaining... An essential absurdism is never far from the surface... A rip-roaring cops and robbers saga with a Mitteleuropean heart. San Francisco Chronicle
  • The antagonistic protagonist of Julian Rubinstein's picaresque romp is a real person who defies belief... Rubinstein rides the momentum in appropriately riotous fashion, but he wisely never lets his vivid style overshadow a tale that burns up the pages on its own momentum. Nor does he succumb to sentimentality when exploring the tale's pathos-and believe it or not, there's as much of that as there is burlesque. A memorable tragicomedy. Boston Globe
  • Julian Rubinstein's richly enjoyable true-crime saga... Mr. Rubinstein narrates all these farcical goings-on with a sad affection peeking through, even for the dumbest and most corrupt characters. But primarily he maintains that marvelously sardonic Eastern European resignation, that ironic tone of voice that always seems to shrug and say, 'So what did you expect?' Dallas Morning News
  • Sometimes a book comes along that taxes even our best summarizing skills, but since we can't just really order you to read it (or can we?), let's just say that Julian Rubinstein's Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, the totally bizarre true story of ice hockey-playing bank robber (and pelt smuggler, grave-digger, the list goes on) Attila Ambrus is one of the quirkiest and most riveting narratives. Here, the bad guys are the gentleman, the good guys are the bumblers, and nothing is quite what it seems, but that won't keep you from laughing out loud every couple of pages. Weirdness has never been quite so winning. Elle
  • Rubinstein has a knack for vividly portraying his stranger-than-fiction characters... By turns hilarious and incredible, this stuff just can't be made up. Maxim (5 out of 5 stars)
  • A wonderful read. Rubinstein's account of the Whiskey Robber seems straight out of Hollywood and indeed it's ideal for the big screen. Sports Illustrated
  • A beautifully crafted tale... In Rubinstein's deft hands, Attila becomes a great tragicomic character... Unlike many books today that run out of energy after the first several chapters, Rubinstein keeps up the high energy, madcap comedy throughout the book. Denver Post
  • This story of a bank robber who captured a nation's sympathy in post-Communist Hungary is a rollicking tale told with glee and flair.... Rubinstein has a knack for telling a good story, and he captures well both Ambrus's appeal and the atmosphere of the first few years of capitalism in Hungary... This Jesse James-like tale has the chance to be a sleeper that transcends nonfiction categories. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • Never was there a more entertaining case history of the fall of communism... Wholly enjoyable. Kirkus
  • Its hard to imagine what journalist Julian Rubinstein thought when he stumbled across the twisted tale of Attila Ambrus, but his fascination finds riveting realization in Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, a nonfiction account of a story that must be read to be believed... Rubinstein surveys the whole tale in grand storytelling fashion, following the action and the chase in entertaining detail. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is more than just an impressive yarn, though: Set against a rich backdrop of hope and despair, the book is a heartrending study of a character whose bungling tells the story of a world much bigger than his own. The Onion, AV Club

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dani | 2/16/2014

    " This story was so seriously crazy. I absolutely loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alton | 2/11/2014

    " Well written book mixing sports to a small degree and the messiness of changing political philosophies. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff Q | 2/8/2014

    " Fantastic. Hockey, whiskey, thievery, pelt-smuggling... and all based on a true story! Big-time page turner, highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rob Schoenbach | 2/8/2014

    " This is such a story. You can practically see it as a movie as you read it. I picked it up b/c I was in the mood for something involving hockey but the book is so much more. Rooting for the bank robbing anti-hero and his schemes is really fun in this one. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Penny | 2/6/2014

    " Enjoyable book, especially for anyone familiar with Romania and Hungary in the 1980s and 1990s. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 2/2/2014

    " What a hoot! I bought this for a summer (trip) read. I absolutely thought it was fiction (since I didn't read the blurbs)...but this is absolutely a scream! A true crime drama that takes in the fall of communism, free market robbery, corrupt officials, and ICE HOCKEY!!! Goodness! What a book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carolina Miranda | 1/17/2014

    " One incredibly likeable Transylvanian bandit? Check. An entertainingly written chunk of Hungarian history? Check. Lots and lots of whiskey? Check and check. An illuminating romp through post-Communist Hungary (with bits of Romania). Highly recommend. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy | 1/17/2014

    " This book was fantastic! It is a true story of a Hungarian bank robber. Very well written. Couldn't put it down! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cameron Casey | 1/7/2014

    " I determined that Hungary is crazy. Hockey players are crazy. The police force after the fall of communism left much to be desired. Interesting book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 alyssa | 12/15/2013

    " Seriously, who bought me this book? This will bug me forever. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Johnny | 12/5/2013

    " Plain 'ol odd fun "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nicole | 4/10/2013

    " Another book nabbed from my husband. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 CJ | 3/23/2013

    " Thoroughly enjoyed this true-life humorous crime caper. Hope to see it made into a movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 1/24/2013

    " This is a nutball of a book - perfect vacation reading. The story just gets weirder and weirder, and the writing is great. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ken | 11/8/2012

    " offbeat non fiction "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 janet | 8/6/2012

    " Starts out a little slow, but it's an incredible story. I just found out that Warner Bros bought the rights to the book and will be making a movie....starring Johnny Depp. There's also an interview between the author and Attila Ambrus on youtube which is really interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Seth | 5/28/2012

    " Great story of Attila the robber, with a strong emphasis on the Romanian/Hungarian situation through the time period (1980s and 90s). Very well written, very interesting, a worthwhile read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Silvana | 4/3/2012

    " a bit odd, fun read. not one of my favorite but worth reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 1/13/2012

    " I'm a geek for Eastern Europe, so I couldn't put this down. Hilarious and well-written as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 1/8/2012

    " Wow- took me by surprise. What a fascinating true story set in post Soviet Hungary and very well written. Would love to see a movie of this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judi | 11/18/2011

    " Well written and entertaining, I never knew what was going to happen next. It was interesting from a historical perspective as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 10/10/2011

    " Romanian/Hungarian third-string goalie robs banks, becomes folk hero Robin Hood, still in jail. Also, drinks Johnny Walker Red. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ken | 2/16/2011

    " Whoa!
    Packed with suspense and humor, excellent work, "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 1/17/2011

    " Never knew I would enjoy knowing the history of Hungary/Romania, but what a great history read. The author has a quirky sense of humor which takes a somewhat simple bank robbery story to a different level. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt | 1/13/2011

    " A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling on one of the richest characters I've read about in years. Whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation, this is always the first book that comes to mind. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dani | 11/26/2010

    " This story was so seriously crazy. I absolutely loved it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott | 11/14/2010

    " A story about a crime spree. It gets monotonous. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Isa | 10/28/2010

    " Extremely amusing book. Drags a little towards the end, but an incredible and wacky true story "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 10/10/2010

    " Picked it up off a bargain table on a whim. Became one of my favorite books of all time. I would love to meet Attila and have a conversation with him. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Noah | 9/7/2010

    " Fun read--bit of a romp through the Wild Wild East of the immediate post-communist era. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 8/2/2010

    " True story of Atilla Ambrus, an ethnic Hungarian born in Transylvania (Romania) under Ceaucescu who escaped to Budapest to play third string goalie for Hungarian league hockey and begin a career of getting drunk on Johnny Walker Red and robbing banks. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 7/18/2010

    " Hilarious book about how Hungary became the Wild, Wild West after the fall of the Iron Curtain as personified by the Chicky Panther. "

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