If you’re like me, when you walk into a bank and wait in line, you might idly wonder what it’d take to pull a bank job and make the ultimate cash withdrawal. Maybe it’s just a fleeting thought. Maybe you’ve actually got the whole plan in your head for that one day you finally lose it all and just decide to go for it. Of course, also, if you’re like me, you’ll never go through with it simply because you’re smart enough to know that most bank robbers end up spending at least a little time in prison, and I’m not big on prison.
Still, bank robbery has a certain romantic appeal. Some of my favorite movies, like Heat and Out of Sight are about bank robbers. When I’m watching the news I’m always interested in the latest bandit and how they did it and how they screwed up. This is probably why I had so much fun reading This Here’s A Stick Up by Duane Swierczynski.
The first part of the book is a history of famous American bank robbers. There are many familiar names including Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger to name a few. Through this book, these names stop being just people you’ve seen in movies and become real people. Bad people, but people nonetheless. Swierczynski’s writing style is informal and fun and sounds a lot like a guy telling stories over a couple pitchers of beer. The difference is Swierczynski isn’t bullshitting you. He’s done enough research to scare your average FBI guy.
After learning the history of American bank robbery, the book gets into actual techniques in robbing banks. The book is so full of information that it was actually found in the getaway car of a bank robber in San Francisco. He tells you what to do, what not to do, and where to do it. He also tells you what to do if you happen to end up in a bank that’s getting robbed.
This is the sort of book they weren’t thinking about when they taught us to read. It’s a fun and informational book. You may be wondering why someone would write a book like this, but then again I wrote a book on ruining your life, so I get the appeal.
Once I finished This Here’s a Stick Up, that bank job plan in my head has been tweaked to a professional level and I’d be willing to bet it’d work out pretty good. Ultimately though, I think robbing a bank is a lot like group sex: it sounds like a nice idea in theory, but the logistics and consequences can be more trouble than their worth.
Now I’m reading another book by Swierczynski called The Wheelman. This one’s a novel, but you can see how his research has informed his fiction. I’m looking forward to more of his work and I’m glad he’s using his talent to write books rather than rob banks.