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Willie The Actor - David Barry

David Barry follows up his autobiography with some classic Roaring Twenties fiction in this new novel ...


David Barry, star of Please Sir and The Fenn Street Gang, has published Willie the Actor, a novel based on the life of New York bank robber, Willie Sutton.

David’s acting career began alongside Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. As Frankie Abbott in Please Sir!, alongside co-stars Deryck Guyler, John Alderton and Joan Sanderson he became a household name, with his character being a born coward who liked to think himself a tough guy with street smarts. The series spawned sequel The Fenn Street Gang, where Frankie Abbott was given license to extend his life of fantasy.

Willie The Actor by David BarryIn recent years David Barry has developed a career as a writer. He has published an autobiography, Flashback – An Actor’s Life, and now with the novel Willie the Actor, based on the life of the New York gangster, William Sutton, he presents his credentials for what in years to come may well be known as “the book that inspired the film”.

This is a crime novel in which a criminal finds that there’s no way out for him from his life on the wrong side of the tracks, and has to keep committing bank robberies, once he’s got form from having been in jail.

The books spans a time period of over 50 years – David introduces us to Willy in 1923, mid-heist, and there is almost a travelogue-style to the adventures that follow, as we witness his numerous loves and stretches inside. We bid farewell to Sutton in 1976, in what is a fitting, and moving, climax to the adventures.

Willie the Actor is not a ‘whodunnit’, or hard-boiled Sam Spade detective novel. We witness the story as a personal account of the frustration that a thief encounters when he simply wants to carry out one final ‘job’, which will give him the security to overcome society’s refusal to let him become a more respectable member of society.

In the title of the book, you get a clue as to the modus operandi employed by our lead character. As a master of disguise, the primitive policing at the time couldn’t easily find this guy, and it’s down to trusting the wrong people that continually acts as Sutton’s Achilles heal.

What wins you over as a reader is that this is an honourable thief who might threaten violence but never uses it. It’s this reluctance to do harm that makes you realise that sometimes those who break the law legitimately can say that the world around them actually left them with very little choice. This also wins over the public at large within the story as well, and Willie becomes a legend, almost a ‘man of the people’, with that slight tinge of Robin Hood embroidered in his exploits.

We are left with a fictional biography that has “Movie of the Week” written all over it. The role of Willie would be sufficiently challenging for any actor, given its five decades-worth of character development that needs portraying.

The occasional piece of bad language for some reason feels a little out of place within the prose, mainly because the rest of the story feels so “PG” in its rating. However, we’re soon back on track, and the narrative bustles along at a fine old pace.

There are not many pieces of fiction that can keep me turning the pages into the early hours. So, give yourself a treat and secure a copy of Willie The Actor. Priced £7.99 - or less from www.culttvstore.com – the publisher is Libros International.


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