Child Heist (Jimmy the Kid) (1974)

Jimmy the Kid by Donald Westlake

When the guard came to open the cell door, Parker said to the big man named Krauss, “Come see me next week when you get out. I think I’ll have something on.”

Never read Child Heist? Well, Dortmunder and his gang have, and they are going to follow it step by step and commit a crime in the same smooth, professional way that Parker does.

Donald Westlake has some fun with his pseudonym in the Dortmunder Gang novel Jimmy the Kid. Andy Kelp reads a stack of Richard Stark novels while in prison, and particularly likes one called Child Heist. He is extremely happy to read a book in which the criminals get away with it. He suggests that the gang use the book as a blueprint, and they decide to do it.

Jimmy the Kid presents a few excerpts from the nonexistent Child Heist, followed by Dortmunder and gang’s bungling attempts to imitate it. Nothing goes quite as planned, and Westlake obviously gets a great deal of amusement out of damaging the mystique of his alter ego by pointing out how many things just happen to go Parker’s way, and what might happen if things were just a little different.

The end of the book presents a letter from Stark to his lawyer, Donald Riley. Donald Riley is apparently an alias that Westlake’s own lawyer occasionally used.

The book on the whole is mildly amusing, and a couple of moments (the actual kidnapping in particular) are extremely funny. Folks who aren’t familiar with Westlake’s non-Stark material will be quite surprised when they pick it up. Westlake often wrote comic material, very different in tone from the Parker books.

Jimmy the Kid has been filmed twice, in 1982 as a Gary Coleman vehicle, and in 1999 in Germany.

Known printings and image gallery here

Some information on the Jimmy the Kid movies