The Big Bounce
Reviewed: May 14, 2004
By: Elmore Leonard
336 pages, $9.99
Leonard has made his mark in two distinct, but related, genres of popular
fiction, mysteries and westerns. At least, that’s how his books tend to be
classified in the public mind. By that classification, The Big Bounce would
not really fit in either category. The “extras” section of the Perfectbound
e-book edition (also from HarperCollins) that I read contains as “extras”
section with lists, essays and interviews which indicates that the author
sees his work a bit differently.
In his eyes the “mysteries”
are simply “crime novels”, and when you look at it that way, this 1969 book
fits right in. The Big Bounce looks like it was Leonard’s move out
of being just a genre western writer. He’s flipped back and forth a few times
since, but this book is clearly a product of its time and place rather than
an excursion into history.
There’s no mystery here. Jack
Ryan would rather have been a baseball player, but his back won’t let him.
In a series of flashbacks we learn of his gradual drift into a life of petty
crime and his adoption of a tough guy attitude. He’ll won’t take guff from
anyone and that’s what gets him fired from a migrant work gang he’s fallen
A local hotel owner, Walter Majestyk, hires him
as a handy man. We get the impression that Majestyk doesn’t like Jack’s ex-boss
and sees something worth salvaging in Jack. But this is not a story about
redemption, so that’s a bit of a red herring.
Nancy, a young, apparently amoral young woman who has parlayed her looks
into a comfortable position as a older man’s mistress, but who lacks adventure
in her life. She’s always looking for what she calls “the bounce”, and she
soon decides that the biggest bounce of all would be to seduce Jack into
helping her steal $50,000 from her sugar daddy.
that what she actually wants? Events later in the story are enough to make
you think that she may always have had a still bigger bounce in the back
of her mind. If you like tidy endings, this is not a book for you.
you can see from the book cover show here, The Big Bounce has been
made into a film recently - due out this month apparently. The Internet Movie
Data Base describes it as “A comedy about taking a chance on paradise” and
tells us that Owen Wilson will be playing Jack. The trailer at Apple.com
shows me a movie that is only marginally connected to the book: different
state, different backgrounds, different time, totally different tone.
book reminded me of James M. Cain’s work, stories like Double Indemnity and The
Postman Always Rings Twice. An accurate film treatment would be film
noir in style.