June 11, 2009

Book Review: "Out of Sight" by Elmore Leonard

Title: Out of Sight
Author: Elmore Leonard
Publisher: Dell (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group)
Published: 1997, paperback; 1996, original
Pages: 341
Genre: Crime

I have been a fan of Elmore Leonard's work for many years, and by that I mean I have enjoyed many of the movies adapted from his novels. It wasn't until this decade when I started to read novels of his not adapted to film that I realized it wasn't so much the movies, but the stories I loved. The man knows how to spin a yarn.

Out of Sight is my favorite among all the films adapted from his work, and stars George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, and other notable actors. So, I figured it was about time I sat down and read the novel that inspired a damned good flick. And, I'm glad I did.

In the novel, Jack Foley is a middle-aged bank robber stuck in a federal prison--yet again. Karen Sisco is gorgeous and gritty … and a federal marshall visiting the same Florida prison where Jack is imprisoned, on the same night he makes his daring escape. Despite her attempt to thwart his escape, Karen ends up locked in the trunk with Jack in the back of Buddy's--his best friend--getaway car. It's in the cramped dark where their fascination with each other begins, as does Karen's pursuit of Jack and every criminal he's associated with outside.

If there's one thing to admire in a Leonard novel, it's the dialogue. Writers and critics alike praise the man's ability to tell a tale nearly entirely through the conversations his characters have. I'm inclined to agree. Despite minimal descriptions of each character's physical appearance, it's pretty easy to visualize each of them. Things play out in an almost casual fashion despite a manhunt takes place throughout the book for Foley and the others who escaped the prison.

Foley's old habits die hard, and he is most certainly not a reformed man. He is, however, a charismatic guy with a firm sense on reality ... even though he comes close on more than one occasion to sabotaging his own freedom by risking a second encounter with the beautiful Karen Sisco. Sisco, herself, has her own fascination with Foley and wonders just what chance they might have if they'd met under different circumstances.

It's a bit of a romance, a bit of a caper, and a whole lot of fun to read. Leonard knows the lingo, the personalities, and the near perfect ending.

On a side-note, this novel contains one of my favorite lines ever uttered: "You wanted to tussle? We tussled." - Karen Sisco

I say that if you haven't sampled an Elmore Leonard novel yet in your life, you'd be doing yourself a favor by starting with this one. For me, there's a sequel of sorts out now or very soon called Road Dogs. Needless to say it's on my wish list.

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