>THE AMERICAN CRIME NOVEL: SWAG: ELMORE LEONARD

Posted: October 18, 2008 in Uncategorized

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Swag is defined in the dictionary as ‘money or goods taken by a thief or burglar.’ 

I thought it appropriate to go back and read this 1976 Elmore Leonard novel during this time of financial turmoil and bank bonuses. 

Two small time crooks Frank J. Ryan and Ernest Stickley, Jr [Stick] meet during Stick’s attempted theft of  a maroon ’73 Camaro from Red Bowers Chevrolet where Frank works as a salesman. Frank subsequently ‘fails’ to identify Stick in court and the two men embark on a string of armed robberies. They follow Frank’s ten rules for success, which he had written on ten different table napkins, and ‘after three months in the business……… they had moved into an apartment building where nearly half the occupants were single young ladies’.

‘There were several Jewish career ladies. Frank was glad to see that.’

Of course Frank and Stick are tempted to break the ‘golden rules’ and they run into problems.

‘Never tell a junkie even your name,’ Stick said. ‘The place is a dope store, full of heads. Rule Number Ten-you want another one?

Swag is set in 1970’s Detroit and is full of sharp dialogue and fine descriptive writing that makes it easy to picture the action in your mind. The characters, even the supporting cast are sharply drawn, and the plot is realistic and down to earth. There are no extreme murderous devices or ancient manuscripts to decipher just good solid honest crime writing.  

One thing did strike me was that in both Elmore Leonard’s Swag and Arnaldur Indridason’s Arctic Chill reviewed here the crimes are mundane, almost every day occurrences, yet the author is able to create a superb crime fiction novel out of very little. 
I suppose that is talent and there is no substitute for that. Swag was a pleasure to read and confirmed for me why Elmore Leonard has won so many awards and also why so many of his books have been made into movies. 

‘Stick considered a P-38 Walther. It looked pretty good, but chose a Smith & Wesson .38 Chief’s Special with a two-inch barrel. After Frank finished fooling around, he picked a big Colt Python 357 with a ventilated rib over its six-inch barrel.’ 
Comments
  1. Para says:

    >I've only read to chapter 4 of this book nd its a really nice action packed book,feels like im in it watching every scene of it :),cant wait to finish this wonderful novel….THUMBS UP!!!!!

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