I first read Help I Am Being Held Prisoner when it was first published in 1974. Now, HARD CASE CRIME has reprinted this Westlake classic and provided it with a great cover by Paul Mann. Harold Albert Chester Kunt finds himself in prison as a result of a practical joke that went awry. While in prision, Kunt falls in with a group of convicts who secretly have a tunnel that leads out of the prison. They leave the prison on a regular basis without the guards knowing it. But, of course, they return to prison to keep up appearances. With this comic setup, Westlake creates a cunning comic caper novel where Kunt’s convict “friends” want to rob a bank in a nearby town. And they plan to include Kunt in the heist.

Help I Am Being Held Prisoner ranks up there with Westlake’s more famous and hilarious Dortmunder series. The plot is clever and the comic situations just keep you laughing. It doesn’t get much better than this! Highly recommended. GRADE: A

10 thoughts on “HELP I AM BEING HELD PRISONER By Donald E. Westlake

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    I read this many years ago and don’t remember it as well as some of his others (other than the basic premise, of course). As always, Hard Case Crime is doing a great job with the books they choose to reprint.

  2. Deb

    That’s really his last name in the book? I assume it’s pronounced as if it begins with a C. Oh dear.

    /Deb clutches her pearls, calls for smelling salts.

  3. maggie Mason

    I’m not sure that I read this one, I mostly read the Dortmunder series, but I know I had it in my collection (now gone). The description sounds a bit like a movie I saw (perhaps only part of the movie as I don’t remember the end) on TCM a year or so ago. Walter Matthau starred IIRC. I can’t remember the name of the movie, but have a sneaking suspicion it was a caper from a Westlake novel.

    I wish I could remember the book that I found for Don Sandstrom. It was his favorite Westlake book and I don’t think I ever got around to reading it. Senior moments!!

    1. george Post author

      Maggie, Westlake was very prolific in the 1970s. Not only was he writing his comic caper novels, he was writing dark caper novels as “Richard Stark.”


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