Swag

by Elmore Leonard

There weren’t any textbooks on armed robbery. The only way to learn was through experience.

Frank, used car salesman, witnesses Earnest, thief, stealing a car from his lot. At Earnest’s trial, when he realizes he’s the only real witness, Frank changes his mind and refuses to testify. Earnest is released, and a beautiful friendship is formed as the two men begin working together on armed robbery scores.

They live by a strict set of rules and are very successful as thieves, taking down dozens of minor scores with no real opposition. But an old friend of Frank’s has an idea for a major takedown involving a larger team, and Frank and Earnest are over their heads.

This is a fascinating, fast-moving story about two guys trying to live the only way that makes sense to them. They’re obviously criminals, but the fact they avoid hurting anyone helps you get in their corner, as does their desire to just lay low overall and stay out of life’s way.

Swag is an excellent novel and a great buddy story, one where existence outside the law gives that thrill you can’t get when the bad guys are just bad guys.

“Look” Frank said, “you got to have a gun or it isn’t armed robbery, is it? You don’t have a gun, the guy says go fuck yourself and you’re standing there, your hand in your pocket, pointing your finger at him.”

4 stars

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