Westlake Strikes Again!
One of the pleasures of reading is discovering gems one had not known about by writers one adores. Such is Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake. Those of you who know me know that Westlake’s Dancing Aztecs is one of my favorite books. Well, this one isn’t far behind it.
The book tells the story of Harry Künt, a practical joker who is imprisoned after one of his jokes goes horribly wrong, wrecking twenty cars, and injuring – among others – three children, and two Congressmen (who were sharing a car with some unmarried ladies). He mostly does well in prison, becoming accepted by one of the toughest groups there, after which he finds out that he is expected to help plan and execute the robbery of two banks — while in prison, which seems to be the ultimate in alibis. Like all of the best Westlake books, this one careens along like a cyclist on meth.
Complications arise. Of course, they do. It wouldn’t be a Westlake book otherwise. In this case, the main complication is that Künt is not the only practical joker in the prison. Someone keeps pulling jokes that it looks like Künt pulled, and he keeps getting in trouble with the warden. This also keeps him from having to actually take part in several failed or thwarted attempts at robbing the banks. Eventually, however, one of the robberies succeeds – at least mostly — after all, this is a Westlake book. Unfortunately, shortly after that, so does another prank that looks like Kunt was responsible. Künt needs to find the prankster before he ends up off all privileges and has to spend the rest of his sentence in solitary.
This is definitely a fun read and just the thing for a quiet evening. You may even find yourself laughing out loud, as you root for Künt and his friends to succeed. I know I was.