Gregory Kirschling
October 01, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

Current Status
In Season
Julian Rubinstein
Little, Brown and Company

We gave it a B+

A deadpan true story so improbable and freewheeling that it reads like a tall tale, The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber sings the song of Attila Ambrus, a Transylvanian pro hockey goalie who once gave up 23 goals in a single game and upped his income by robbing 29 Hungarian banks during a seven-year period in the 1990s. To a downtrodden, postcommunism public, ”Chicky Panther” was a national hero; to the bank teller he presented with red roses before sticking her up, he was a gentleman robber; to the bartenders who filled him with whiskey before his heists, he was just another drunk. Julian Rubinstein, an American journalist, gives off a bit of the rogue-robber spirit himself; he plies us with so much (too much?) color and information on Attila and his times that his funny book might just make off with all your free time.

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