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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 listeners say about Swag

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

4 people found this helpful

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Not the top Leonard, but Muller still rocks.

Swag is the story of Ernest Stickley, Stick, and Frank Ryan. Yes, that's right, Frank and Ernest. These two guys rob 32 stores in three months, and think it's easy. Then they get together with a hustler named Sportree and his sidekick Leon Woody, and the four of them plus a guy named Bobby Ruiz, and they plan a robbery of J.L. Hudson, one of the largest department stores in Detroit. The robbery goes badly wrong, with a witness and Bobby Ruiz dying. The noose begins to tighten on Frank and Ernest. Both of them have been romancing several "career girls" in the apartment complex they live in. They party hearty. Stolen money and booze fuels a lifestyle which they love, but Stick wants out, knowing that the ride has to stop sometime. Leonard is not at his absolute best here, but, again, the combination of the two of these guys, Leonard and Muller, is just plain fun. Along the way Stick has to kill four guys, which is clearly not what he has intended at all. Stick is a recurring character, with a book named after him, and we know that he is not a killer, actually just a lost man who gets pulled in very easily. Once again the pace quickens as only Leonard and Muller can rev it up. I won't spoil the end. If you listen to the book, you'll love it. Leonard always leaves you wanting more.

4 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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great read

what a wonderful book exciting from beginning to the very end.
wonderful crime novel would recommend a hundred times over.
fantastic job

1 person found this helpful

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Don’t let this one put you off Elmore Leonard

There are better Elmore Leonards, better by a long shot. The reader missed the point of some of Leonard’s wiseguy deadpan cool affects, and added some silly aspects to the voices. Unneeded falsettos for the females made it even less believable. But the similar cool character so well portrayed in the later works, was there in Stick, one of the two hapless criminals who dominate this story. It was good enough to keep me until the end, wondering if would turn out well or just go bad for them... uncertain to the last. That’s a sign of a decent tale, right? Not completely predictable? Try Cuba Libre, or Tishomigo Blues, or The Hot Kid. Sly and cool and smart.

1 person found this helpful

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Not his best

Started this book after reading Be Cool, and it’s terrible. The story drags and none of the characters are likable. Not because they’re bad guys, just boring. Didn’t want to sit through three more hours of it so I gave up. Not worth your time.

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excellent

my first audio book by Leonard and absolutely loved it! cant wait to listen to more.