Paperback original: Bantam, 1978. First UK and only hardcover edition: Secker & Warburg, 1979. Many paperback reprint editions.


   Two ex-cons named Ordell and Louis, obviously too refined to be winners in a Cheech and Chong look-alike contest, kidnap a suburban Detroit housewife, a tennis mother named Mickey, whose husband Frank is a crooked contractor and secretly planning on leaving her and skipping off to the Caribbean.

   Not surprisingly, he quite happily ignores the ransom demands, sending their dreams of a cool million disappearing upwards in clouds of thin, billowing smoke.

   Detroit’s not a very nice city, and Leonard knows it and tells it. But while the ending of his story comes as a subtle sort of surprise, the looseness with which he establishes it pretty much undermines the effect. The tale’s as shaky as the Dawsons’ marriage from the start.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 3, May-June 1979.
          (slightly revised)

[UPDATE] 05-26-09. When I began checking out the bibliographic data for this book, it caught me by surprise, as it may have you too, but I’d forgotten that many of Elmore Leonard’s earliest books were published as paperback originals. In fact, unless I’m badly mistaken, The Switch has never appeared as a US hardcover, as I said above.

    Back in 1978 I was still adding a “letter grade” at the end of the reviews I wrote. I assigned a “C plus” to this one, which makes it above average, but not by much. If I were to read it again, I don’t know whether I’d be so tough on the book now, or if it really is one of Leonard’s lesser works. If so, perhaps that’s the reason for the lack of a hardcover.

    Or a movie, for that matter. Based only on my description of it, it sounds to me as though Hollywood ought to have snatched The Switch up long before now.