Review: Four novels of the 1970s by Elmore Leonard

The late Elmore Leonard wrote crime novels noted for their realistic dialog and interesting characters. This omnibus edition from The Library of America contains, as the volume’s title says, four novels from the 1970s, all fairly typical of Leonard’s work, together with notes and a time-line of Leonard’s life. The printing and binding are as usual excellent. I have their cloth-bound, boxed book club edition with built-in ribbon bookmark. They don’t make them like this any more, not except for the Library of America, anyway.

I’d read all of them except Swag years ago, but barely remembered them. I found them all readable, but the only one I’d particularly recommend is The Switch for its wicked sense of humor.

52 Pick-Up

A successful married businessman with a much younger girlfriend on the side suddenly finds himself the target of blackmailers, and when he refuses to pay, they put him into a much worse fix than he’d expected.


A couple of guys come up with a simple formula for a near-perfect crime, or rather a reasonably series of them that are not individually lucrative but low risk and with a decent payoff. It works well until one of them decides to go for a big score and the other lets himself be talked into being a part of it.

Unknown Man No. 89

A process server with a talent for finding people is hired by someone who specializes in discovering unclaimed assets (often stocks), locating the owners, and charging a percentage as a finder’s fee. As usual, things get complicated and violent when the process server tracks down a missing heir.

The Switch

A couple of ex-cons decide to kidnap a rich guy’s wife, but the rich guy turns out to be seriously corrupt, and his manipulative mistress takes advantage of things to run her own scam, while one of the kidnappers and the wife gradually start to like each other. It’s all very cynical and at times quite funny.

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