The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Washed up wannabe ball player Jack Ryan has a brush with the law and soon gets entangled with Nancy, a rich man's young girlfriend. Turns out Nancy is a thrillseeker and soon has Jack headed for another brush with the law...
If I'm not mistaken, this is Elmore Leonard's first crime book. While it's by no means as polished as his later works, it's the prototype from which the rest evolved.
Jack Ryan, the protagonist, is a conflicted guy pulled into a femme fatale's orbit and finds himself powerless to resist her pull, no matter how outlandish her ideas are. Nancy, the femme in question, gets her kicks by breaking windows at rocks, firing her .22 pistol at boats and windows while driving her mustang 70 mph. Complicating things are a pair of mugs Ryan did some B & E with at the beginning of the story and the boss of the cucumber-picking outfit Ryan was working for until he beat up his crew leader.
Like every Leonard book after this, there is a fair amount of double dealing. Also like it's descendents, the dialogue is slicker than a wet raft and the lines between good and bad are as blurred as the drive home after a weekend-long drunk.
Brief side note: This has been made into a movie twice but I have no inclination to see either since I don't buy Ryan O'Neal or Owen Wilson as Jack Ryan. Or as capable actors, for that matter.
For historical reasons, you'll want to give this a read as an Elmore fan. Otherwise, you could safely miss it. It's not bad but old Dutch hadn't hit his rhythm quite yet. It's like the demo version of one of your favorite songs. 3 out of five stars.