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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard


It's no secret why Elmore Leonard is such a popular author--he writes some good, memorable books. What I've come to expect from him are (seemingly) unusual characters with serious flaws. Depending on how serious those flaws are, he runs the risk of making characters--even his protagonists--unlikeable.

In a nutshell, that's where he went wrong with this book. The story centers on two characters who border on the grotesque...morally speaking. I personally despise thieves, but that's what Jack Ryan is. His co-star Nancy isn't exactly a thief, but she's even more grotesque--a thrill-seeking brat who delights in ruining other people's lives for any or no reason.

Let me say a little about Nancy: she's a physically attractive girl. She knows how to use her attractiveness, too. She's a serial seductress who has ruined several marriages just to see if she could. She enjoys invading the privacy of others. She likes breaking expensive stuff that doesn't belong to her. She runs people off the road for the hell of it. She takes pot-shots at passing boats with a target pistol for no other reason than it might be fun. "It might be fun" is her justification for all of her sick behavior. With premeditation, she plans to murder someone for the same reason. And for the length of this narrative, her occupation is live-in whore. Or "rich man's plaything" if you prefer the author's more polite description.

Back to Jack: he's a burglar. I've mentioned how I feel about thieves. You know what I hate even worse than a thief? Somebody who screws over a person who has helped them out. The only likeable character in this book, for me, was Mr. Majestyk, who bent over backwards to give Jack a break. Does this loser appreciate it? Hell no. He lies and disrespects his patron throughout, and at one point contemplates stealing from him, too. At least Leonard didn't have him go that far. I might have stopped reading, then.

I've collected my share of favorite antiheroes--maybe that's why I like some of Elmore Leonard's other work. But it's hard enough reading about villains who screw people over with no remorse. Don't expect me to sympathize with "heroes" who do the same. I'd be a fan of Martin Scorcese's films if I enjoyed feeling slimy like this.

You call me whatever names you care to. My advice is to avoid this book.

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