What do you do if you’ve just written a book about the history of bank robberies and bank robbery techniques? Well, if you’re Duane Swierczynski, author of This Here’s A Stick Up, you write The Wheelman. The Wheelman is about a bank robbery that goes about as wrong as it can go.
One of my favorite movies is Red Rock West. I like it because throughout the entire movie Nicholas Cage’s character simply cannot catch a break. Even when it seems like things are working out, they turn out worse than before. However, compared to The Wheelman, Nick Cage’s character went through a walk in the park.
Lennon is the title character and an absolute pro behind the wheel. Unfortunately he doesn’t get to spend much time driving because he’s too busy being kicked, shot, burned, tortured, and dragged all over the underworld of Philadelphia. I really don’t want to say too much about the plot because it’s too much fun finding out what’s going to happen next.
The Wheelman reads like the absolute worst nightmare of any pro bank robber. Murphy’s Law will not cut it. This is Lennon’s Law: anything that can go wrong has gone more wrong than you thought possible. Unlike most novels of this genre, the characters barely have a chance to catch their breath. Most of the chapters are short quick jabs and then you’re suddenly hit with something you didn’t even see coming.
Since I’m currently working on a novel directly after writing a non-fiction book, I know that it takes different muscles to do it. I was glad to see that Swierczynski was able to make the transition so easily. His writing is still incredibly relaxed and fun to read. I felt like I should have had a drink in front of me the whole time, but I know I wouldn’t have had time to drink it because I was too busy reading the next chapter.
Swierczynski is definitely on my list of novelists I must read, right next to George Pelacanos, Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy.