Friday 11 April 2014

Swag by Elmore Leonard: British First Edition (Penguin Paperback, 1984)

I read, and wrote about, Elmore Leonard a lot last year, both prior to and following the author's death in August, my reading and blogging fuelled, as is frequently the case, by a book collecting spree. One strand of my collecting/reading/blogging was the novels Leonard published in the 1970s, especially those issued in the UK by Secker & Warburg. Secker published almost all of Leonard's 1970s contemporaneously-set novels – i.e., not westerns – in hardback in this country: Fifty-Two Pickup (1974), Unknown Man No. 89 (1977), The Hunted (1978; originally 1977 in the US) and The Switch (1979; originally 1978 in the US); in the latter two's cases, it was the first time they'd appeared in hardback (both were issued as paperback originals in the States). But there was one novel missing from that short run: Swag. Published in the US in hardback by Delacorte in 1976, Swag (alias Ryan's Rules) was for some reason – possibly simply caution at overpublishing the still relatively unknown Leonard in the UK market – passed over by Secker, with the result that the first edition published in the UK was this:

The 1984 Penguin paperback, with a cover – which I've added to the Existential Ennui British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s page – bearing a photograph by Peter Chadwick. I picked this first printing up in Oxfam Books in Brighton a couple of months back for the princely sum of:

ninety-nine pence. Which admittedly isn't much less than you'd probably have to pay, including postage, on, say, Amazon Marketplace; but then, who knows whether you'd be getting a first printing, or even the correct edition at all – a point made by fellow book blogger Ray Garraty in the comments of my post on Donald E. Westlake's Two Much on Wednesday.

Of course, why a body would want a first printing of the Penguin paperback of Swag, especially when said body already owns a 1987 Viking edition of the Elmore Leonard omnibus Dutch Treat, which includes Swag, and in which edition that body read the novel last year and subsequently reviewed it on his daft blog, is a question for minds far more acute than mine; but given that that body also owns two editions of Stick – a 1983 US Arbor House first edition and a 1984 UK Allen Lane signed first edition – which is one of the body's favourite Leonard novels, and which is ostensibly the sequel to Swag, featuring, as it does, Ernest Stickley, Jr., erstwhile partner in crime of Frank Ryan (no relation to Jack Ryan), his co-star in Swag, the acquisition of a Penguin paperback edition of Swag on top of Dutch Treat becomes, perhaps, marginally more explicable.*


I've another Elmore Leonard paperback lined up for my next missive – a signed one, no less, marking the start of an intermittent run of posts on signed editions, featuring authors both familiar and new to Existential Ennui.

* Postscript, 20/2/17: On the other hand, the fact that three years later that same body bought a (admittedly inexpensive) US first edition/first impression of Swag (jacket design by Lawrence Ratzkin) purely so he could own the book in hardback is entirely indefensible.


  1. I have this edition!

    What do you think about the newest Tim Marrs UK cover art?

  2. I've only really glanced at most of Marrs's Leonard covers, Ken, but the ones I've seen I quite like, although the only one I have in my collection at present is Road Dogs. What do you make of them?