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Publisher's Summary

The smallest of small-time criminals, Ernest Stickley Jr. figures his luck's about to change when Detroit used-car salesman Frank Ryan catches him trying to boost a ride from Ryan's lot. Frank's got some surefire schemes for getting rich quick - all of them involving guns - and all Stickley has to do is follow "Ryan's Rules" to share the wealth. But sometimes rules need to be bent, maybe even broken, if one is to succeed in the world of crime, especially if the "brains" of the operation knows less than nothing.

©2009 Elmore Leonard (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • D. Sevener
  • Springfield, IL United States
  • 08-29-12

Fun tale, well told, great narration

Any additional comments?

I love Elmore Leonard, and his books are almost more fun to listen to than to read, especially when the narration is as superb as Frank Muller's. These are not sophisticated, serpentine whodunits. They are really more character driven than plot oriented. But Leonard has such an engaging and economical way of characterization that you feel these people really exist -- a feeling enhanced by a narrator who makes each character come alive.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Reno, NV, United States
  • 01-03-14

Dated attitudes, good plot

Any additional comments?

Two lowlifes realize they can make a comfortable living doing low-level armed robberies of grocery and liquor stores. They get an apartment in a swingers apartment complex and throw parties with lots of booze, sex and Mantovani records. Then they get bored and try for one big score that will set them for a year. The book was written in 1976, and the white male main characters are products of their time: sexist and racist. Leonard himself seems respectful of the black characters, even if the white characters have to remind themselves not to use the N-word in their company. But he treats the female characters as less significant in every way. That said, the plot is good and dialogue excellent. Bechdel test: fail.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 10-23-15

They knew exactly what they were doing.

"After the first few weeks he began to take it in stride. They were pros, that's why it was easy." - Elmore Leonard, Swag

I've read/listened to/watched several of Leonard's 90s crime novels (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, etc) but recently I was given Elmore Leonard's 'Four Novels of the 1970s' (Library of America) for my birthday and decided to start with 'Swag'. It was great, gritty Detroit crime fiction. So, in honor of this novel, here are ten rules for Detroit hardboiled fiction:

1. There needs to be a list of rules.
2. There has to be multiple women.
3. There has to be some racial tension.
4. The book can't be longer than 250 pages
5. Dialogue must be both funny and sharp.
6. There needs to be several twists.
7. Drugs and alcohol must be consumed or discussed.
8. There has to be several exit ramps that are missed.
9. Cars have to play a role, even if minor.
10. All rules must eventually be broken.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Classic Elmore

The plot is merely better than average. The dialog's the thing. Mark Hammer brings out the rhythm in the writing. He is a master of his art. So is Leonard. If you're like me you'll listen to anything Leonard/Hammer do and this one's a classic. Get it.

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  • Story

This story was really good!

Simple story, colorfully told about characters you don't necessarily love or hate, but you like them all enough that you want to know where to send their Birthday Cards, whether it's prison or some remote town in Mexico.

Frank Muller is fantastic.

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Great book!

One of Leonard's best. Frank Muller does a great narration, too. Highly recommended. I listened to it over a single day, and never lost interest.

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  • Pamela
  • Bigfork, Montana
  • 08-26-14

Second rate crooks are not Elmore's best

The two primary characters are small time robbers (grocery stores, liquor stores, bars) who ride out their luck until they fall in with some serious guys. They were not particularly appealing personalities to me. I appreciate that they did not intend to hurt anyone, but they are so careless and thoughtless that the inevitable happens.

The women are not as one-dimensional as some reviewers believe - there are a few women who really move the story forward. The "career girls" by the pool were a 1970s reality - looking for a bit of fun until they had to settle down. Teachers, clerks, models and other career girls were the ones who could afford to live independently in a singles apartment complex. They were as superficial in their relationships as the guy next door, even if that guy was a petty criminal.

These two guys, however, are not suave and slickly charming; they are insecure, whiny and weak. No one in the book was interesting enough for me to care what happened to them. Many much better Elmore Leonard novels out there (Get Shorty and Pronto come to mind)

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Great Read

What made the experience of listening to Swag the most enjoyable?

Dialogue. Leonard's characters sound about as real as it gets.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The primary protagonist.

What about Frank Muller’s performance did you like?

Muller's laid-back suspicious tone is a perfect marriage to Leonard's crime characters.

Any additional comments?

Muller and Leonard are such a good combination, that I started looking at other titles they have together.

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Characters you hope die

Would you try another book from Elmore Leonard and/or Frank Muller?

No

Has Swag turned you off from other books in this genre?

Yes

What aspect of Frank Muller’s performance would you have changed?

He should learn how people fom Detroit pronounce the street names. And he just sounds so sarcastic all the time. The characters are lousers enough, then his interpretations makes them worse.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

No

Any additional comments?

I tried and tried with this book. I kept thinking it would get better. But the characters and their attitudes and activities are repulsive in a way. Boring, for certain. Couldn't finish it. A waste of money and time. I listened to one Leonard book and enjoyed it. Then a second which was just ok. But this one, yuk. I'm from Detroit, so the narrator's mispronunciations of the streets and areas was annoying. Would it be so hard to get it authentic?

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 03-27-13

It's Dutch, but it's Dated

Which character – as performed by Frank Muller – was your favorite?

Muller is simply superb. He always sounds like himself, but he has a great range of inflections so you recognize different characters. Plus, he always sounds good.

Any additional comments?

This is Elmore Leonard, so you know it's well done. Still, hardboiled as it often is, the setting is very much dated, and that starts to distract from the whole. It's worth remembering, too, that this is still fairly early Leonard, before the lighter-hearted work of Get Shorty. It's certainly worth reading this one, but temper your expectations. It's about a couple of pros setting out to commit crimes as pros, and that feels more or less like the challenge Leonard set out for himself as he wrote it: understated professional writing.

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