Barry Ergang is back on the blog today with an all new review for FFB. For the full list of reading suggestions, check out Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog.
BANK SHOT (1972) by Donald E. Westlake
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
“A man had to stay alive somehow while waiting for a big score to develop, and there was nothing better for that than an encyclopedia con. In the spring and fall, that is; winter was too cold for house-to-house work and summer was too hot. But given the right time of year, the old encyclopedia scam was unbeatable.”
Or so the hapless Dortmunder thinks until, after his prospect leaves the room, he hears
9-1-1 being dialed followed by sirens, and makes a fast
exit from her home.
One of his criminous colleagues, Kelp, has a score in view: “I swear and I have the goods. This time I have a guaranteed winner.” Although Dortmunder is skeptical, Kelp persuades him to listen to the proposed caper, a bank robbery his nephew Victor has concocted. Victor was formerly with the FBI, which fact instantly puts Dortmunder on his guard.
The target is the temporary headquarters—a converted mobile home/trailer—across the street from the original building of Capitalists & Immigrants Trusts. The old building is being torn down and rebuilt. The plan is to steal the bank. No, not just the money within—a standard robbery effort would be far too risky—but instead to steal the trailer, transport it to a remote location that would give the robbers time to loot the safe, and then depart unseen.
Besides the aforementioned Kelp and Victor, Dortmunder’s crew consists of his chain-smoking girlfriend May, a lockman (safecracker) who goes by the name Herman X, driver Stan Murch, and Murch’s mother, who has been resentfully wearing, when necessary, a neck brace to scam an insurance policy.
Bank Shot recounts a Dortmunder caper, folks, so you know things won’t go smoothly. Its author being Donald Westlake, you’ll likely anticipate a lot of laughs, as I did. Unfortunately, they weren’t forthcoming. The book is entertaining, to be sure, but unlike some of the other Dortmunder titles I’ve read, I found this one sorely lacking in chuckle- or guffaw-out-loud moments. In fact, it wasn’t until about three-quarters of the way through or so that I came upon moments that had me smiling even a little. Consequently, although I can recommend it as a fast, pleasant read, it’s a disappointment in terms of the wonderful wackiness found in other Dortmunder and standalone comic novels by mystery Grand Master Westlake.
© 2019 Barry Ergang