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The Switch

The Switch

4.3 8
by Elmore Leonard

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“My favorite Leonard book….He writes the way Hammett and Chandler might write today, if they sharpened their senses of ironic humor and grew better ears for dialogue.”
Dallas Morning News

“The best writer of crime fiction alive.”

Dangerously eccentric characters, razor-sharp


“My favorite Leonard book….He writes the way Hammett and Chandler might write today, if they sharpened their senses of ironic humor and grew better ears for dialogue.”
Dallas Morning News

“The best writer of crime fiction alive.”

Dangerously eccentric characters, razor-sharp black humor, brilliant dialog, and suspense all rolled into one tight package—that’s The Switch, Elmore Leonard’s classic tale of a kidnapping gone wrong…or terribly right, depending on how you look at it. The Grand Master whom the New York Times Book Review calls, “the greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever,” has written a wry and twisting tale that any of the other all-time greats—Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, James M. Cain, Robert Parker…every noir author who ever walked a detective, cop, or criminal into a shadowy alley—would be thrilled to call their own. Leonard, the man who has given us U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (currently starring in TV’s Justified) is at his storytelling best, as a spurned wife decides to take a rightful—and profitable—revenge on her deceiving hubby by teaming up with the two thugs he hired to abduct her.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
“The greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever!”
The Detroit News
“An absolute master.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One

Mickey Said, "I'll drive. I'd really like to."

Frank, holding the door open, said, "Get in the car, okay?" He wasn't going to say anything else. He handed her his golf trophy to hold, walked around and tipped the club parking boy a dollar. Mickey buckled the seat belt -- something she seldom did -- and lit a cigarette. Frank got in and turned on the radio.

They passed the Bloomfield Hills Police Department on Telegraph, south of Long Lake Road, going 85 miles an hour. Someone at the club that evening had said that anybody coming from Deep Run after a Saturday night party, anybody at all, would blow at least a twenty on the breathalizer. Frank had said his lawyer carried a couple $100 bills in his penny loafers at all times just to bail out friends. Frank, with his little-rascal grin, had never been stopped.

The white Mark V -- washed daily -- turned left onto Quarton Road. Mickey held her body rigid as the pale hood followed the headlight beams through the curves, at 70 miles an hour, conservatively straddling the double lines down the middle of the road, the Mark V swaying slightly, leaning -- WJZZ-FM pouring out of the rear speakers -- leaning harder, Mickey feeling herself pressed against the door and hearing the tires squeal and the bump-bump-bump jolting along the shoulder of the road, then through the red light at Lahser, up the hill and a mile to Covington, tires squealing again on the quick turn into the street, then coasting -- "See? What's the problem?" -- turning into the drive of the big brown and white Tudor home, grazing the high hedge and coming to anabrupt stop. In the paved turn-around area of the backyard, Frank twisted to look through the rear window, moved in reverse, maneuvered forward again, cranking the wheel, reverse again, gunning it, and slammed the Mark V into the garage, ripping the side molding from Mickey's Grand Prix as metal scraped against metal and white paint was laid in streaks over dark blue.

"Jesus Christ, you parked right in the middle of the garage!"

Mickey didn't say anything. Her shoulders were still hunched against the walled-in sound of scraping metal. After a moment she unbuckled and got out, leaving Frank's golf trophy on the seat.

It was cold in Bo's room. The window air-conditioner hummed and groaned as though it might build to a breaking point. Mickey turned the dial to low and the hum became soothing. In the strip of light from the door she could see Bo, his coarse blond hair on the pillow, his bare shoulders. His body lay twisted, the sheet pulled tightly against the hard narrow curve of his fanny. Mickey's word. Part of a thought. Practically no fanny at all, running it off six hours a day on tennis courts and developing the farmer tan -- she kidded him about it -- brown face and arms, white body. He didn't think it was funny. It was a tennis tan and the legs were brown, hardmuscled. He didn't think many things were funny. He would scowl and push his hair from his face. Now his face was slack, his mouth partly open. She kissed his cheek and could hear his breathing, her little boy who seemed to fill the twin bed. Bo would be fourteen in a month. "Going on thirty-five," she said to Frank. Only once. Frank had given her a tired but patient head-shake that was for women, the concentration, the psyching up, the single-purpose will to win that a talented athlete must develop to become a champion. (Sometimes he sounded like a Wheaties commercial.)

She said, again only once, "What difference does it make if he wins or loses, if he's having fun?" Knowing it was a mistake as she said it. Frank said, "If you don't play to win, why keep score?" (Did that follow?) He then gave an example from the world of golf that drew only a vague parallel. Something about his second-shot lie on the 5-par 17th -- the dogleg to the right? -- where he could chip out past the trees, play it safe; or he could take a wedge and if he stroked it just right, to get his loft and a little kick, he'd be sitting pin high. "You know how I played it?" Mickey, showing interest: How?

An unspoken house rule: Never talk about Bo if it's anything that might upset Frank. When the lines from his nose to his jaw tightened, stop. Switch to Bo's overpowering forehand. Or let Frank describe his day's round of golf, the entire eighteen, stroke by stroke. Keep the peace. Though the tiny voice in her mind was beginning to ask, louder each time, Why?

It was a pleasure watching Bo sleep. It was a pleasure watching him eat. It was a pleasure watching him play tennis when he was winning. But it was not a pleasure simply to be with him and talk. Frank said, "He's thirteen years old, for Christ sake. What do you want him to talk about?"

Coming into the bedroom with a drink and his golf trophy, Frank said, "You know, it's funny, after fifteen years I still have to explain to you this is work, winning this thing. You make remarks like it's a piece of shit."

Mickey was already in bed in her long white pajama top, her face scrubbed clean of eye-liner and lipstick; but he'd caught her. The bed lamp was still on.

"What'd I say this time?"

"You made some remarks at the table; I heard you."

"I said it looks like the Empire State Building with a golfer on top."

"That's very funny."

The Switch. Copyright © by Elmore Leonard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.

Brief Biography

Bloomfield Village, Michigan
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1925
Place of Birth:
New Orleans, Louisiana
B.Ph., University of Detroit, 1950

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