The Library of America inaugurates its Elmore Leonard edition with four funny, street-smart early masterpieces, gathered in one volume for the first time: Blending gritty toughness and unpredictable violence with wild humor and an uncanny ear for the rhythms of ordinary speech, Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) was the most widely and enthusiastically admired crime velist of his time. His genius for scene and dialogue led Time magazine to describe him as -a Dickens of Detroit, - and Newsweek called him -the best American writer of crime alive, possibly the best we've ever had.- Now The Library of America inaugurates a three-volume edition of Leonard's greatest work, prepared in consultation with the author shortly before his death and edited by his long-time researcher Gregg Sutter. The four vels collected in this first volume re-invented the American crime vel and cemented Leonard's reputation. All are set in his hometown Detroit, a hard-working -shot and a beer- kind of place whose lawless underside becomes a stage for an unforgettable cast of rogues, con artists, and psychopaths. Fifty-Two Pickup (1974), fast and sharply written, is an insidiously brutal book about an adulterous businessman who runs afoul of a crew of murderous blackmailers. Swag (1976) finds Leonard moving for the first time into the more comic mode that would become his signature, as he charts the small-time criminal careers of an amiable ex-con and an ambitious car salesman who share a bachelor pad and pursue their hedonistic dream of the good life through a string of armed robberies. Unkwn Man No. 23 (1977) spins a complex web of crisscrossing rip-offs and con games, with process server Jack Ryan, a typically laid-back Leonard protagonist, caught in the middle. In The Switch (1978), one of Leonard's funniest books, Mickey Dawson, a discontented housewife held for ransom, manages to turn the tables on her kidnappers while exacting overdue revenge on her scheming husband. This volume also contains a newly researched chrology of Elmore Leonard's life, drawing on materials in his personal archive, and detailed antations, which include as a special bonus a scene from the typescript for Swag that did t appear in the published book.
Detroit native GREGG SUTTER first met Elmore Leonard in 1979 and began working for him in 1981. He is currently at work on a biography of Leonard, from his unique perspective as his full-time researcher for more than thirty years.