cover of Bank Shot

Bank Shot
Donald E. Westlake
189 pages
published in 1972

This was just what I needed to read. I've just started a new job, with an hour's commute each way and to be honest I haven't had much energy for "heavy" books, or even the sort of light non-fiction Sandra has been letting me read lately. Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books though are perfect for it, as they require little mental effort in themselves without being mindless. Slight but enjoyable and far more clever than they need to be. I reviewed Good Behavior last year. That one came out in 1985, while Bank Shot is a far earlier entry in the series, dating back to 1972. It is in fact the second book in the series.

Even in the second book though the characters and routine is already well established. John Dortmunder is the hapless burglar and idea man trying to make a dishonest buck, while his friends land him in all sorts of clever and not so clever crime capers.

This time it's Andy Kelp, the crook who has such faith in doctors he always steals a car with m.d. plates if he can help it, who comes up with the perfect plan. Or rather his nephew, an ex-FBI agent with slightly too much imagination does. The situation is simple: one of the Capitalists and Immigrants Trust's branches is being demolished to make room for a new bank building. Until then, the branch has relocated into a motor home. Now security is still tight enough to make robbing the bank impossible, but you could always steal the bank itself. Hook it up to a truck and drive away with it... Dortmunder doesn't like the idea much, but agrees to start working on it and slowly but surely a plan is made and put into effect --not without a lot of problems though.

It's both the characters and the situations they are put in that makes this such a fun and funny book: at times I had to force myself to stop giggling on the bus. Westlake derives the humour from both characters and the situations he put them in. There is e.g. the way Stan Kelp, the getaway car driver, is obsessed with travel routes and is trying to keep his mother wearing her neck brace for the insurance scam they're pulling. I've known people like that.

Then there's the way in which the at first simple plan gets more and more complicated as more and more problems crop up which treaten to disrail the whole robbery, but never quite do. Absolutely hilarious is the situation the gang finds themselves in after they've succesfully stolen the bank and have to hide with it from the police until their not too stable lockman has finally cracked the safe...

Really, this is a wonderful book, tailor made for anyone who likes a good caper movie.

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Webpage created 22-06-2004, last updated 24-06-2004
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