Tag Archive: prison escapes

THE HOWS AND WHYS OF PRISON ESCAPES

swimming-to-freedomFrom Vice News

Over the course of his 50-year career, Donald E. Westlake wrote more than 100 books, the vast majority of them crime fiction—most often seen from the point of view of the criminals. In 1993, the Mystery Writers of America gave him their highest honor, naming him Grand Master, largely on the strength of his two classic series: one featuring hard-boiled burglar Parker (played on screen by Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, Mel Gibson, and Jason Statham, among others), the other portraying hapless heister John Dortmunder (who lucked out and got Robert Redford—go figure).

Along the way, Westlake wrote a fair amount of nonfiction, usually relating in some way to the crime genre. In October, the University of Chicago Press will publish a selection of that nonfiction in The Getaway Car: A Donald E. Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany. The piece below, an essay originally published in 1961 in the third issue of Ed McBain’s Mystery Book, is a selected history of the hows and whys of great prison breaks. As a writer, Westlake always enjoyed putting his characters into agonizingly difficult situations and seeing how they get out; that enthusiasm for an impossible puzzle animates this essay.  (more…)