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Swag

Narrated by: Frank Muller
Series: Jack Ryan (Leonard), Book 2
Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
4 out of 5 stars (323 ratings)

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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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Rooting for the bad guys again

As with the best of Leonard's stories, Swag is very funny as well as suspenseful. Frank Ryan, a used car salesman catches Ernest "Stick" Stickley stealing a car off his lot. Naturally he calls the police and Stick is arrested but not before he ditches the car and is hold up in a bar. As Frank is the eye witness to the crime the entire case rests on his testimony. Frank Ryan thinks he may have a better use for Stick than letting him sit in a jail for grand theft auto.

Frank Ryan has worked up ten rule for perfect robbery. He declines to recognize Stick at court and the two meet afterwards to discuss a possible working relationship. Initially the reader has the impression that Frank is the brains of the outfit. However as we come to know Stick it becomes clear that Stick has a better grasp of what they're doing and how not to get caught.

There are moment when I laughed out loud at the antics of these two stooges. They rob a fortune, live like airline pilots, and as they become confident start throwing away the rules that brought them success.

When it comes to plotting, dialogue and humor in context Elmore Leonard is in a class by himself. There are certain times when nothing will do but one of his books. Swag is a hoot.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

6 of 8 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.

17 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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This is not a Jack Ryan Book

Audible has this as a Jack Ryan book preceded by The Big Bounce and followed by Unknown Man #89, this is in error.

My first clue was the character Frank J. Ryan, the J could stand for Jack but it doesn't. My second clue was that this Frank Ryan was a complete idiot, whereas Jack Ryan from the Big Bounce was a bit more cool, used few words, but kept it together. Frank J. Ryan was anything but cool. Lastly, in Unknown Man #89, the third book, the character's name is Jack C. Ryan, nowhere close to Frank J. Ryan. Also, when the book Unknown Man #89 talked about Jack's past, it mentioned events from The Big Bounce but didn't mention a thing about any of the extensive armed robbery history from Swag.

Conclusion, Jack C. Ryan from The Big Bounce and Unknown Man #89 and Frank J. Ryan from Swag are two completely different characters, and boy am I glad.

I could not stand Frank J. Ryan from Swag, and I kept hoping either he'd get caught or Ernest Stickly Jr., whom I liked from the Elmore Leonard story, Stick, would shoot the idiot. By the way, I believe this story, Swag, comes before Stick in the chronology of Leonard stories.

Swag has its interesting parts, but overall it kept me in an irritated state. I was glad to have finished it, as I was about to punch the wall, as the character of Frank J. Ryan had me in such a state of irritation. If you listen to this book, good luck, but I have to mention that Frank Muller was perfect for this book. Frank J. Ryan was meant to be the irritating individual in this book and Frank Muller played him perfectly.

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Riveting: Quinten Tarantino before there was Quentin Tarantino

This is an excellent novel that builds a lot of tension, character plot, dialogue and has a great use of social realism.

Elmore Leonard has ver multi layered characters and he knows how to create stories with really good endings that doesn’t seem very cliché and predictable.

The story never feels like it drags, sometimes I have to read sections over and over to make sure I understand it and I was happy that I was able to make time to finish this great novel. I do think for people who want to study dialogue, pacing and how to write characters that are very deep with very minimal description, this is a great book to study.

This is a great novel about morality, friendship, living life on the edge, human desire of wanting to trust people and live and break your own rules. It very well captures adult relationships and betrayals very well while its subject matter is more of a body and a heist story, it still has very emotional impact.

Frank Mueller is extremely excellent in his narration and he does it in a way that is very realistic, he does not put in his own creative touch to a point where it’s obnoxious like when I read the narration for the invisible man by a different reader. I do think that he knows how to read very well and match the pacing of the story and match the actions in the book, an excellent articulator of the Elmore Leonard stories. A buying point for any Audible Elmore Leonard book is Frank Mueller’s reading of it.

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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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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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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)