Happy 46th B-day, Attila Ambrus! (w/ prison release video)
Attila Ambrus is 46 years old today, and a free man. To celebrate the day, I figured I’d post the video of his walk to freedom last year after 12 years in prison. The hours leading up to that moment were probably the oddest of all the strange times I spent in Sátoraljaújhely, the little town on the Slovakian border, where I’d gone for years to visit him during and after I worked on the book. All day, fans of the “Whiskey Robber” roamed around town banging hockey sticks. Television trucks whizzed by, making laps to check both entrances of the prison, because the prison spokesman kept changing the time on us. First he said Attila was to be the following day at noon, then he said 3, then he said it would be after breakfast. I was holed up across the street in the Starlite hotel, eating spaetzle, drinking beer and trying to stay sane fielding calls from lawyers and agents in Los Angeles interested in the film rights. Having flown in from New York the day before, I was wiped out and probably snoring up a storm around 3 am when they let him free. Fortunately, a lot of fans and media were still awake and watching both of the gates. The following video was shot by Hungary’s Origo, one of the online news portals.
Attila and I met up in Budapest the following night. (Photos from that are on my site at www.whiskeyrobber.com)
Extremists vs. extremists? Matthew Gonshaw is now banned from ever entering Scotland during the birding season for life, after his 51st conviction on charges of egg collecting. The once vaunted Jourdain Society has gone underground, its members communicating with each other using code numbers as aliases. Thanks to the New Yorker for publishing, and Byliner “collecting” it.
Mark Thomas (left) and Guy Shorrock keep watch on Britain’s egg obsessives. “These are not normal criminals,” Shorrock says. Photograph by Richard Barnes.
In this week’s issue, Julian Rubinstein goes inside England’s secretive network of people obsessed with accumulating and cataloguing the eggs of rare birds, and the investigators who are trying to catch them: http://nyr.kr/13FQbwt
Thanks to John Green, the author of Time magazine’s #1 Book of the Year, for picking Ballad of the Whiskey Robber as his #1 Book of the Year. And thanks Slate and Audible.com for picking the Digital Cabaret Recording of the book as its #1 Pick of the Week. It is a totally independent production starring Eric Bogosian, Gary Shteyngart, Demetri Martin, Jonathan Ames, Arthur Phillips, Darin Strauss, Samantha Power, Jonathan Spottiswoode, Tommy Ramone (!), Eugene Mirman and others. To hear a clip: