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.
Collected for the first time, four funny, street-smart early masterpieces by America's greatest modern crime writer: Blending gritty toughness and unpredictable violence with wild humor and an uncanny ear for the rhythms of ordinary speech, Elmore Leonard (19252013) was the most widely and enthusiastically admired crime novelist of his time. His tumultuous cast of characters led Time 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 finest work, prepared in consultation with the author shortly before his death, and edited by his longtime researcher Gregg Sutter. The four novels collected in this first volume, all set in Leonard’s hometown Detroit, reinvented the American crime novel and made his reputation. 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 used car salesman who share a garden apartment. Unknown Man No. 89 (1977) spins a complex pattern of crisscrossing rip-offs and con games, with process server Jack Ryan, a typically aloof 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 and her scheming husband.