Despite being a longtime Elmore Leonard fan, Swag is about the only well-regarded book of his I have yet to read. And I don’t know why I put it off for so long. I made excuse-after-excuse because there was always something else to read. But when I saw it at a used book store (bless them), I figured it was time to get to it. And thanks to this pandemic (sarcasm), I decided to knock it out.
Yeah, there was no reason to wait. This book was good. Undoubtedly, one of Leonard’s best.
Leonard’s hallmark has always been dialogue and he’s never better here with an unlikely pair that team up to rob people. The dynamic between them, starting from the opening scenes, was great to begin with and Leonard teases it out as they get deeper and deeper into the crime game. It’s tense and also hilarious.
Also, Leonard is able to hold the plot here. Like Stephen King, Leonard is a fantastic writer who never plots his books in advance. This can sometimes lead to bumpy middles and messy endings but that’s not the case here. Leonard has a good sense of what story he wants to tell and he does it in a style that’s uniquely his. And boy, does he stick the landing.
The only downside to this is the racism. Obviously, Leonard is trying to speak to the times and he often uses racism to lampoon his lowlife white criminals but still. It’s pretty brutal here. Be forewarned.
Otherwise, this is an excellent book and if you’re an Elmore Leonard fan, don’t want as long as I did to read it.