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Swag Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1978

4.3 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

You will look long and hard before you find anyone with a bad word to say about Leonard. About the worst thing I can think of to say about SWAG is that it might be said to make armed robbery look like a enticing career move... if you haven't read him before, you are in for a treat. -- Nicholas Lezard The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (June 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044018424X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440184249
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on September 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In 1992 the Mystery Writers of America made Elmore Leonard a Grand Master; the award "is presented only to individuals who, by a lifetime of achievement, have proved themselves preeminent in the craft of the mystery and dedicated to the advancement of the genre." Perhaps none of his novels better exemplifies why he won this honor than Ryan's Rules (which was later renamed Swag).
Frank Ryan is a mildly honest used car salesman, but he thinks he's come up with a surefire way to get rich quick. So when Ernest Stickley, Jr. tries brazening his way out of the lot after Ryan catches him boosting a car, Frank decides to play dumb at the trial and Stick skips. Ryan explains his plan:
Stick...I'm talking about simple everyday armed robbery. Supermarkets, bars, liquor stores, gas stations, that kind of place. Statistics show--man, I'm not just saying it, the statistics show--armed robbery pays the most for the least amount of risk. Now, you ready for this? I see how two guys who know what they're doing and're businesslike about it,; who're frank with each other and earnest about their work, can pull down three to five grand a week.
And Frank doesn't just have a plan, he also has 10 rules for success and happiness, Ryan's Rules:
1. Always be polite on the job. Say please and thank you. 2. Never say more than necessary. 3. Never call your partner by name--unless you use a made-up name. 4. Dress Well. never look suspicious or like a bum. 5. Never use your own car. (Details to come.) 6. Never count the take in the car. 7. Never flash money in a bar or with women. 8. Never go back to an old bar or hangout once you have moved up. 9. Never tell anyone your business. Never tell a junkie even your name. 10.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this many years ago in the Dutch Treat omnibus edition and re-read it recently. It tells the story of two small time Detroit criminals, Ernest Stickley and Frank Ryan, who embark on a spree of armed robberies. They make a partnership in which they agree to follow "Ryan's Rules" (which has been an alternate title for this novel). They soon break these rules and come to have several misadventures involving botched armed robberies (their own and others they are victims of) double-crosses and department store holdups gone wrong. The action follows non-stop much like a violent video game. There is Leonard's characteristic wry humour: An incompetent stick-up man is relieved of the proceeds of his robbery. He's locked in a storage room with his victims, who proceed to beat him unconscious. Stick and Frank walk away with the money and are in turn robbed in a parking lot. Stick and Frank rob a liquor store where the stubborn senior citizen behind the cash register is willing to die and allow his equally elderly wife to be raped and murdered rather than hand over the hidden money. All this and more while never going over the top and becoming unbelievable. It's possible to empathize with Stickley's predicament. He's basically a good man who does bad things. It is inexplicable to me that this book has not been made into a movie while many lesser Leonard novels have. The Stickley character reappears in the novel Stick, in which it is revealed that Ryan died in prison. That novel, Stick, was made into the 1985 Burt Reynolds movie.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
An earlier novel, not as well known as the Florida books or the Chili Palmer stories, or even "Stick," which features the same main character, "Swag" is my very favorite of the dozen or so Leonard books I've read.
Stick and his partner his upon a novel way to cover the expenses of living: armed-robbery. The system they lay down keeps the scheme running safely for a while, until greed, mistrust and love interfere. Unusual for Leonard, this book is entirely from the criminal point of view, because one of them is the 'hero' as well. Great fun.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a transplanted Detroiter, whenever I need a hometown fix, I read an Elmore Leonard or Loren Estleman novel. This particular Leonard gem, Swag, is especially satisfying. Leonard's characters cruise the streets you've cruised, and encounter people you've met. The premise: car salesman Frank Ryan teams up with Oklahoma cement worker and car thief Ernest Stickley ("Stick") to live the high life, via armed robbery. Frank is the one whose carefully crafted rules allow them to live in luxury, but it's Frank's deviation from the rules that brings about the duo's downfall. The book is a provocative portrait, warts and all, of pre-recession Detroit: before the auto industry collapsed entirely, when Hudson's still had its downtown flagship department store, and before crack infected the streets of the city.
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Format: Paperback
My brother-in-law recommended Leonard to me and I started with 3 novels in 'Dutch Treat'--Swag, The Hunted and Mr. Majestyk--and since we share a love of mystery series I figured I'd love him. My problem with Leonard is I love his writing but I can't stand his characters. I mean how many lowlife thugs and their ditzy women who crave abuse of one sort or another can I warm up to or be amused by? His painful depictions of how men view women are hard to bear. It's true his flawless writing and plotlines keep me glued to the end but after it's over I just don't care what happened to any of the dumbheads I've just finished reading about. Maybe I'm just inured by professional liability to the charms of damaged men whose early life tragedies led them to self destructive behavior.

Wish I knew what percentage of all 5-star Leonard reviews were by males. I'll keep reading 'till I can't take it anymore as the pleasure of his prose and curiosity about what's going to happen are enough to keep me going for now.
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