The best books about bank robbery

Many authors have picked their favorite books about bank robbery and why they recommend each book.

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The Getaway

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of The Getaway

The Getaway by Jim Thompson and the film directed by Sam Peckinpah is a gritty slice of noir and the classic story of a bank heist gone wrong. It’s a beautifully pulpy showcase for the twisted marriage of Doc and Carol, played by Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw with perfection in the film. It plunges you into the very core of moral ambiguity and the ending of the book is unexpected, sublime, and a sledgehammer to the head. A great first book and film to introduce a reader to noir styles.

The Getaway

By Jim Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Getaway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work presents a new and important paradigm modification in psychology that attempts to incorporate ideas from quantum physics and postmodern culture. The author feels that the current diagnostic model of the mental health establishment is too entwined with political and economic factors to represent a valid method for healing psychological problems. The predominant model is too linear, reductionist, normative, and based upon an abnormal view of behavior. Exacerbating this problem is our highly accelerated present-day lifestyle in which new processes and interactions are constantly emerging. The postmodern self is evolving into a manipulative, situational self with no authentic core…


Who am I?

As a writer of thrillers whose debut novel was considered Noir, I’ve always been fascinated by tales of characters that are not always the most likeable. Noir fiction is characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity. Similar to its successful films, I love when you feel for an anti-hero. That despite their questionable motives, the author or director manages to make you root for them in the end.


I wrote...

Stalker Stalked

By Lee Matthew Goldberg,

Book cover of Stalker Stalked

What is my book about?

Lexi Mazur is a depressed, alcoholic, pill-popper whose only joy has become her reality TV shows, often fantasizing that the people on TV are a part of her world. After her boyfriend Steve leaves her, she fixates on the show Socialites and its star Magnolia Artois, following every facet of the girl’s life on social media in the hopes of befriending and becoming more like her. 

But stalking isn’t new to Lexi. She ultimately won over her ex Steve by following and manipulating every minute detail about him so he’d fall for her. In fact, she landed her other ex-boyfriend Jeremy in the same way. Being a pharma rep, she’s used to manipulation to get doctors to buy her drugs, along with the perk of saving pills for herself. But what happens when the stalker gets stalked? 

The Hot Spot

By Charles Williams,

Book cover of The Hot Spot

Harry Madox drifts into a small Texas town with a plan to rob the local bank. He soon finds himself with two girlfriends. The young, sweet Gloria Harper brings out the best in him, while his boss’ jaded wife, Dolores Harshaw, brings out the worst. This a classic noir (and one of the best) in which a man's internal struggles spill out in the form of self-destructive loves and crimes.

Williams' characters ring true, and he provides good insight into their motivations and weaknesses. Dolores Harshaw may be the best femme fatale in all of crime fiction: seductive, conniving, compelling, manipulative, jealous, ruthless, intelligent, and unhinged. "The smart thing," Madox reflects after their first tryst, "was to get out of here and let her happen to somebody else." But you know he just can't resist.

The Hot Spot

By Charles Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hot Spot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark, brooding masterpiece of guilt, greed, and lust in a town ripe for felony.

Madox wasn't all bad.  He was just half-bad.  But trap a man like Madox in a dead-end job in a stultifying small town, introduce him to a femme fatale like the Harshaw woman, and give him a shot at a fast fifteen thousand dollars--in a bank just begging to be knocked over--and his better nature doesn't stand a chance.

Merciless in its suspense, flawless in its grasp of the ways in which ordinary people hurtle over the edge, The Hot Spot is a superb example…

Who am I?

In college, I studied Literature with a capital L: those timeless classics the professors worship and revere. Then a woman in a used book store in Seattle handed me a copy of Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280 and said, "Read this." I was hooked. The pulp fiction of the 1950s is visceral and raw. Like Greek tragedy, it examines the darker drives of human nature--greed, lust, loneliness, anger--and their consequences. Pulp writers were paid by the word to crank out lurid thrills. But like Shakespeare writing for the groundlings, some of them just couldn't help going above and beyond. Their work remains in print because it hits on universal truths that still resonate today.


I wrote...

To Hell with Johnny Manic

By Andrew Diamond,

Book cover of To Hell with Johnny Manic

What is my book about?

John Manis, aka Johnny Manic, isn't who he says he is. He seems to get richer as the people close to him disappear, but he's beginning to learn that money can't ease the burden of his dark secret. Marilyn Dupree, passionate and volatile, wants out of a bad marriage to a wealthy man with secrets of his own. In Johnny, she recognizes what she's been looking for. They have a chemistry like nitrogen and glycerin.

Detective Lou Eisenfall just wants to keep the peace in his rich, idyllic town. He can't tell who's playing whom in this unlikely triangle, but his intuition tells him it isn't going to end well. This dark tale of deception and murder is "a feverishly readable psychological noir." Kirkus Reviews

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

By Julian Rubinstein,

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

If not for the Internet’s ability to locate actual news coverage of events, one could be forgiven for thinking Rubenstein’s tale of Attila Ambrus – a Hungarian hockey player turned pelt smuggler and bank robberwas a fanciful work of pure fiction. That it is indeed a true story makes it all the more delicious as the unlikely tale of an unremarkable player on an unremarkable team becomes a storied folk hero precisely because he’s so bad at breaking the law. You will find yourself rooting for the bumbling protagonist of this true story, perhaps because he is so earnest in his questionable endeavors. Rubinstein told me over a decade ago that the story had been optioned for the big screen with Johnny Depp in mind, but it would seem that, sadly, that ship sailed long ago. It would make a great film. (My connection: Rubinstein and I are…

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

By Julian Rubinstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ballad of the Whiskey Robber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Attila Ambrus was a gentleman thief from Transylvania, 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 officer who wore top hat and tails on the job, and a driver so inept he was known only by a Hungarian…

Who am I?

“Write what you know.” Every writer knows this. I have done that; first, in a novella, Losing Addison, which I recently made into a psychological thriller featuring Sherilyn Fenn (release date: June 28, 2022). The story is based on a nightmare I had in 2011. In addition, I have written two novels, By A Thread and The Falls, both of which involve Mormon missionaries caught up in events that test their integrity, forcing them to make difficult choices as said missionaries discover same-sex attractions more deeply rooted than they—and their superiors—would like to admit.


I wrote...

By a Thread

By Marty Beaudet,

Book cover of By a Thread

What is my book about?

"The time will come when the Constitution and the Government will hang by a thread and will be ready to fall...but this people, the Latter-Day Saints, will step forth and save it."

Thus prophesied the founding prophet of the Mormon Church. Is this prophecy on the verge of being fulfilled? Some adherents to the faith within the U.S. government think so. But what role will 21-year-old missionary Kevin "Red" Davis play when the CIA approaches him? What choices will he make when his faith, his patriotism, and his personal integrity come into conflict? Unfolding on the streets of Vienna, Munich, Washington, D.C., and in the confines of a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, By A Thread is a tale of truth, trust, and betrayal.

Shot All to Hell

By Mark Lee Gardner,

Book cover of Shot All to Hell

One of the biggest worries as the Civil War wrapped up was that Confederate troops might disappear into the Appalachian Mountains, where they could conduct guerrilla raids with relative impunity. As a result, the war could have been extended for years, maybe even decades, as the insurgents crept out of their strongholds to conduct hit and run raids. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee and Pete Longstreet reminded Southerners they lost the war. It was time to get on with their lives.

Most southern veterans accepted the situation. However, a few, like Jesse and Frank James and the Younger brothers, couldn’t accept defeat. So they holed up in the backwoods of Missouri and fought a new kind of war using tactics they’d learned under William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson.

Sound familiar? It’s the same situation that has allowed terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda to…

Shot All to Hell

By Mark Lee Gardner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shot All to Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shot All to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner recounts the thrilling life of Jesse James, Frank James, the Younger brothers, and the most famous bank robbery of all time. Follow the Wild West's most celebrated gang of outlaws as they step inside Northfield's First National Bank and back out on the streets to square off with heroic citizens who risked their lives to defend justice in Minnesota. With compelling details that chronicle the two-week chase that followed-the near misses, the fateful mistakes, and the bloody final shootout on the Watonwan River, Shot All to Hell is a galloping true tale…

Who am I?

What could be cooler to a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s than the Civil War? TV spoon-fed us westerns—Bonanza, F-Troop, The Lone Ranger, and The Wild, Wild West. Many of the stories were set during the Civil War or had characters molded by it. And then, somewhere in the mid-1960s, my parents took me to a civil war reenactment. Guns cracked. Cannons boomed, and men fell. I was hooked. I’ve devoured every Civil War book I could get my hands on for the past fifty years and watched every movie remotely connected to the subject. So, it’s only natural I wrote a book about it.


I wrote...

1861: Civil War Beginnings

By Nick Vulich,

Book cover of 1861: Civil War Beginnings

What is my book about?

It’s 1860. Military societies form throughout the south, drilling and waiting for orders to attack. The threat: Abraham Lincoln. Southerners are convinced his election means the end of life as they know it.

Lincoln has received hundreds of death threats since his election. As he travels to Washington for his inaugural, things turn deadly. Rumors say thousands of bloodthirsty Southerners intend to storm the capital, burn the public buildings, and kill the president-elect before he reaches the capital. The attack on Fort Sumter is still months off, but for Abraham Lincoln, war is imminent and real. Very real.

Money to Burn

By Ricardo Piglia, Amanda Hopkinson,

Book cover of Money to Burn

More about hiding out and the lead-up to the final shoot-out than the bank robbery at the start, this novel is based on a real case from the 1960s. After they rob a bank in the Province of Buenos Aires, Dorda and Brigone, escape with the money over the Rio de la Plata. They find a bolthole in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a country much like Argentina culturally and historically, but with fewer hysterical tendencies. Not happy about this are the politicians and police officers involved in the robbery and anxious for their cut of the loot. Piglia does a good job of recreating Argentina in the 1960s. Despite some stylistic pretensions and his overwriting of the main characters, the author manages not to get in the way of the story.

Money to Burn

By Ricardo Piglia, Amanda Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Money to Burn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on original reports and witness statements, Money to Burn tells the story of a gang of bandits who, fancying themselves as urban guerillas, raided a bank in downtown Buenos Aires. They escaped with millions of dollars in cash but six weeks later found their hideout surrounded by three hundred military police, journalists and TV cameras. The subsequent siege and its shocking outcome have become a Latin American legend.

Who am I?

At twenty-six I was living in Wuhan. I had been in China for a couple of years and was looking for a change. Not ready to go back home to New Zealand, I made my way across Europe, through the USA, and on to Argentina. Since that visit, I’ve followed Argentina's economic crises and scoured its newspapers for quirky crime stories. I started to send out true crime articles to various magazines. Eventually, I had enough material to write a novel. For years I’ve wanted to find a literary yet straightforward crime novel set in Argentina. The search goes on, but below are the best I’ve come across so far.


I wrote...

Buenos Aires Triad

By F.E. Beyer,

Book cover of Buenos Aires Triad

What is my book about?

A searing portrait of small-time crooks and immigrant gangs. When an armed robber shoots a British tourist in Buenos Aires, Lucas's life changes forever. A humble watch-seller moonlighting for the gang behind the robbery, Lucas picked the British woman as a target. He wants out of the gang but instead becomes more entangled and joins gang leader Gustavo in extortion work for the triads. In the Argentina of this well-researched noir, an enterprising type can store their loot with crooked nuns, or bet it on scorpion fights at illegal casinos.

Canada

By Richard Ford,

Book cover of Canada

You’re fifteen years old, living unhappily with your feckless parents and unstable older sister in a small town in Montana. And then your family implodes: your parents are arrested for bank robbery and your sister flees to parts unknown. As troubling as the premise is, Canada becomes even darker and more ominous as young Dell Parsons travels alone to Saskatchewan to live with erstwhile family friends, but in fact enters a whole new world of intrigue and violence. Dell is a stoic character, and you desperately want to see his life take a turn for the better. What you get instead is a case study in resiliency and survival. Ford’s prose is powerful; every word counts, every sentence pulls you deeper into the story.

Canada

By Richard Ford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Canada as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.

In 1956, Dell Parsons' family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did following the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative, plank-shouldered man, an airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Dell and his twin sister, Berner, could easily see why their mother might have been attracted to him. But their mother Neeva - from an educated, immigrant, Jewish family - was shy, artistic and alienated from their father's small-town world of money scrapes and living…

Who am I?

My novel Venice Beach—like the five books I recommend here—has been classified as a “coming-of-age” novel, a classification that I have no quarrels with as long as it’s understood that coming-of-age is not regarded simply as a synonym for “adolescence” or “being a teenager.” The coming-of-age years—generally defined as between ages 12 and 18—are so much more than a period of life wedged between childhood and adulthood. Coming of age is a process, not a block of time; it is a hot emotional forge in which we experience so many “firsts” and are hammered, usually painfully, into the shapes that will last a lifetime. 


I wrote...

Venice Beach

By William Mark Habeeb,

Book cover of Venice Beach

What is my book about?

It's 1968. A thirteen-year-old runaway flees his home for the lure of California. He barely survives on the streets of Los Angeles until a fateful encounter leads him to the bohemian community of Venice Beach, known at the time as the "Slum-by-the-Sea." He renames himself Moon, symbolizing his quest for something that will shine light on him, just as the sun illumines the moon. Over the next two years he experiences first loves, sexual confusion, drug use, and haunting childhood flashbacks. Amidst cultural upheaval over Vietnam, Moon assembles a new family of his own making, until a shocking and unexpected discovery upends who he thought he was. Venice Beach is a moving tale of the resilience of youth and the power of our personal stories.

The Thought Gang

By Tibor Fischer,

Book cover of The Thought Gang

I picked this book up in a charity shop, idly browsing while waiting for my elderly mother to choose a nice murder—so I think ‘unexpected’ is a good word to describe both the content and the quality. Once you get over the jarring juxtapositions, and accept the general absurdity of a middle-aged philosopher turned bank robber, occasionally on the lam, the characters (despite some distinctly unappealing attributes) become more sympathetic, and their outrageous fortunes and philosophical reflections do inspire interest in the fragmentary first recorded attempts at sustained thought about life, the universe and everything, in Europe: the pre-Socratics.

The Thought Gang

By Tibor Fischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thought Gang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tibor Fischer's first novel Under the Frog was one of the most widely praised books in England in 1993. That book followed the fortunes of two young men in the pursuit of sex and the avoidance of work as part of a traveling basketball team in the Hungary of the 1950s, and everyone from Salman Rushdie to A.S. Byatt responded with unbridled enthusiasm.

Now comes his eagerly awaited follow-up, another hilarious chronicle of an unusual dynamic duo-this time chasing after something quite different-and the London papers are even more enthusiastic. The Thought Gang is an unabashedly comic novel of ideas…


Who am I?

Scotland has a proud tradition of philosophical enquiry and I studied closely the work of most of these authors and benefited from almost all of them for my own Ph.D. work. Pirsig uses the old Scots word “gumption” for know-how and initiative and, in his honour, I use his related term “gumptionology” as my handle on social media. I also write my own mystery books series set in Scotland (the Bruno Benedetti mysteries) and they are often inspired by musing on philosophical and metaphysical matters but even my books on ethics contain some philosophical fiction. Our shared stories are fundamental to our humanity—and to our philosophy!


I wrote...

Alchemy at the Chalkface: Pirsig, Pedagogy and the Metaphysics of Quality

By Alan McManus,

Book cover of Alchemy at the Chalkface: Pirsig, Pedagogy and the Metaphysics of Quality

What is my book about?

“What the hell is Quality?” asked the author of my first book pick, halfway through his bestseller, prompted by a middle-aged colleague at Bozeman College (Montana) watering her office plants and asking him about his English teaching. He described that question as a seed crystal which grew into his two famous works of philosophical fiction then, mostly through misunderstanding, created a maze of educational and industrial regulations—provoking endless academic discussion over their justification and coherence.

50 years later, halfway through my doctorate in Scotland, suffering from painful RSI in my hands and wrists from typing obsessively in a damp ground-floor flat, trying to cram in every philosophical insight from Plato to Robert M. Pirsig, I decided, like these philosophers, to answer by telling a story.

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