cover image Help I Am Being Held Prisoner

Help I Am Being Held Prisoner

Donald E. Westlake. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-78565-682-8

MWA Grand Master Westlake (1933–2008) is good even when he’s not at his best, as shown by this reissue of a 1974 heist caper. Harry Künt is an inveterate practical joker, but when one of his jokes—leaving a nude female mannequin sprawled on the hood of a car parked on the verge of the Long Island Expressway—results in a 17-car collision and 20 injured, he’s given a sentence of five to 15 years in the state pen. In the prison gym, Harry meets a disgruntled crew of seven inmates, led by Phil Giffin, who share a secret tunnel that allows them to visit the outside world. The real fun begins when Harry learns that Phil’s group is planning to rob two banks, and Harry is expected to help. Poor Harry tries, secretly, to thwart the bank job; participates in a wacky robbery of Camp Quattatunk, an army base; is almost undone by another practical joker; and survives prison as only Westlake, master of the absurd, could devise. Fans both old and new will be tickled. (Feb.)