I’ve decided to quit apologizing for my Elmore Leonard fixation and call this a scholarly exploration. In that spirit, I present two novels featuring the character Frank Ryan. Actually, Swag is more about Earnest Stickley, Jr., than Frank Ryan, but (Frank Ryan) appeared ELright after the title , so for marketing purposes let’s pretend it’s his book. We meet Frank Ryan for the first time (as near as I can tell) in The Big Bounce. He’s a petty criminal and drifter whose first caper in the novel is to sneak into a resort house and steal the wallets of vacationers who have left their pants and purses behind while they surf and sunbath. Pretty daring stuff.
He wanders around the resort a bit more, looking for opportunities of one kind or another and ends up getting himself hired as a handyman by the resort’s owner, Mister Majestyk (who later has a book of his own, who seems unrelated to this guy except by Elmore’s name. ‘Sup with that, Elmore?) Anyhow, his job gives him the opportunity to wander from cabin to cabin and cruise the beach looking for still more opportunities. Several present themselves, but the choicest is a luscious young piece who’s currently headlining as the paramour of the swankiest place in the neighborhood. Her sugar daddy’s away a lot, and she enjoys adventures even more than the next girl, so she sets her sights on Frank. She soon has him involved in a scheme to steal a huge bunch of cash. A job of a size and strategy he’s never pulled off before.
He’s not sure he wants the job or wants her, but the lure is strong enough to keep him hanging around and see things out. I guess this qualifies as a noir novel since the protagonist is pretty much a bad guy, though a likable one who doesn’t really hurt anyone. As if all that weren’t enough, Frank’s being pursued by some wetbacks on the other end of the income scale who think they were stiffed on the beach house caper. It’s a slippery slope he’s sliding down, and the ending’s as unpredictable as any I’ve read from our classic crime writer.
Swag, also involves the lure of a big job for friend Frank. This time we’re in Detroit, and Frank manages to team himself up with an ex-con named Stick (the aforementioned Earnest Stickley, Jr.) This time, also, there are complicated arrangments with the black Detroit underworld and there is way more than one woman involved. There’s even true love. Well, almost. The action of is full of arrests and getaways that keep things lively the whole exhilarating way. I think I’ve seen the last of Frank Ryan, but I’ve not finished my Elmore exploration yet, so I’ll let you if he turns up again.