Tuesday, April 10, 2012

23. Help I am being held prisoner by Donald E. Westlake

I can't even remember where I found this little gem from 1974.  It's the story of a lifelong, compulsive practical joker who ends up going a bit too far and gets sent to a prison in upstate New York.  There, he accidentally falls in with a crew of hard types who oversee the gym.  They are extremely suspicious and closed to him until he discovers that they have a set-up that allows them to sneak out of the prison, where they go out on day trips disguised as civilians.  It's a clever idea and Westlake plays it out with his light but effective touch.  Things get complicated for the protagonist on many levels when the gang reveals to him that they are planning to rob a bank.  They have the perfect alibi, right?

Westlake is able to create a criminal world that is at once fairly realistic and yet never seems really truly scary.  The stakes are high and there are real threats hinted at, but somehow the whole book has a friendly, relaxed feel (though that feel does not stop you from wanting to turn the pages).  It also has an absolute classic bank robbery moment that only adds to Westlake's oeuvre on this subject.

Great stuff.  Find it and read it.

No comments: