subgenre of crime fiction
The caper story is a subgenre of crime fiction. The typical caper story involves one or more crimes (especially thefts, swindles, or occasionally kidnappings) perpetrated by the main characters in full view of the reader. The actions of police or detectives attempting to prevent or solve the crimes may also be chronicled, but are not the main focus of the story.
The caper story is distinguished from the straight crime story by elements of humor, adventure, or unusual cleverness or audacity. The main characters often have comical idiosyncrasies and the law enforcement individuals are characterized by ineptitude or inadequacies. The criminals comically plan a crime with details unnecessary for the nature of the crime and humour is created when their personalities clash and their quirks are exposed. For instance, the Dortmunder stories of Donald E. Westlake are highly comic tales involving unusual thefts by a gang of offbeat characters — in different stories Dortmunder's gang steals the same gem several times, steals an entire branch bank, and kidnaps someone from an asylum by driving a stolen train onto the property. By contrast, the same author's Parker stories (published under the name Richard Stark) are grimly straightforward accounts of mundane crime — the criminal equivalent of the police procedural. Others, such as Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr novels, feature a role reversal, an honest criminal and crooked cop, and the use of burglar Rhodenbarr's criminal talents to solve murders.
A caper may appear as a subplot in a larger work. For example, Tom Sawyer's plot to steal Jim out of slavery in the last part of Huckleberry Finn is a classic caper.
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