Bank Shot is a crime novel featuring dumb criminals.

Dumb criminals populate some of the funniest novels ever written. Jimmy Breslin’s 1969 bestseller, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, became a film two years later starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Orbach. Many of Elmore Leonard’s books feature criminals who give new meaning to the word stupid, and many have been adapted for film and television. More recently, Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series and Carl Hiaasen’s Florida tales demonstrate the length to which some criminals will go to demonstrate their incompetence. But the all-time master of novels about dumb criminals is Donald E. Westlake.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A hilarious crime novel featuring dumb criminals

Westlake passed away in 2008, leaving behind more than 100 published novels and nonfiction books. He won three Edgar Awards along the way and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1993. His work encompassed a wide range of work, including hard-boiled crime fiction and science fiction. But the books for which he remains best known are the 14 novels in the hilarious Dortmunder series of comic caper novels that were published from 1970 to 2009. Bank Shot, the second book in the series, is one of the best.

Bank Shot (Dortmunder #2) by Donald E. Westlake (1972) 189 pages ★★★★★

A harebrained scheme from the start

When Andy Kelp approaches Dortmunder with a harebrained scheme to steal a bank, you just know things will go wrong. Yes, the deal is, they don’t steal money from a bank. They actually steal a bank. Out on Long Island, the Capitalists’ and Immigrants’ Bank is renovating its old building. While construction is underway, the bank has relocated across the street to a double-wide mobile home. Dortmunder and his gang are going to drive away with the bank in tow, its seven guards trapped inside, as they make their way to their hiding-place. Clever, huh? A little too much so.

I reviewed the first novel in the Dortmunder series, The Hot Rock, at Dortmunder’s first caper goes awry again and again. And I reviewed the fourteenth and last Dortmunder novel, Get Real, at Dortmunder’s last caper, funny to the end. You’ll also find reviews of two other novels in the series by typing the author’s name into the search box in the upper left-hand corner of the home page on this site.

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