In 1985 there was this movie called Stick, starring and directed by Burt Reynolds and this movie was based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, published in 1983. I haven't seen the film, but I've heard it's pretty lame. I even heard that Leonard's experience with the film was so bad that he disowned the whole deal. I guess others felt the same way since it was a box office flop. I just mention this because while reading the novel Stick I just could not see Burt Reynolds as Stick. I kept imagining him all through the novel as my main man Lee Marvin. And J.B. Smoove would have been the perfect Cornell. Now, I realize that you'd have to get a couple of time machines to get these guys together for a 1985 production, but hell, I would have seen that movie.
Stick's about a guy named Ernest "Stick" Stickley, an ex-con (though my dad would have argued that there is no such thing as an "ex"-con; once you're convicted you're convicted, unless it's overturned. It's pedantic, but I feel a compulsion to mention that) fresh out of the stir and ready to make a clean life for himself. He's moved to Miami to be close to his daughter and his hostile ex-wife (in this case "ex" works). He hooks up with a prison buddy called Rainy who's got a gig going on, but when it goes down things go horribly awry. Rainy gets himself killed, and Stick realizes that bullet was meant for the new guy--in other words him. Stick then lays low and gets a job as a chauffeur for a rich financial guy named Barry who's too slick for his own good.
But the world works in funny ways and Stick soon realizes that Barry has dealings with a weird dude named Chucky, the same guy that sent Rainy on his final, ill-fated job! Sooner or later Stick and Chucky's path are bound to cross and Stick's just remembered that he never got the five-grand promised him for that job. Throw in a smart and sexy financial advisor for Stick to chase and a Dude-Ranch-reject-cowboy-wannabe working with Cuban mobsters to chase Stick and you've got yourself a good time.
Stick is everything you'd expect a novel from Elmore Leonard to be: smart, witty and cool, with easy no-nonsense prose that sounds more like some guy just talking to you than reading a book. It's a good read. That being said, there's nothing in Stick that really stands out. The novel begins and ends pretty well, with a little bit of meandering fluff in between. But it's still a fun book full of interesting characters and sharp dialogue. I understand thatStick is a follow-up to Leonard's 1976 novel Swag, also featuring Ernest Stickley. I hear that one is pretty good, so I'll have to track it down.
My verdict: ★★★✬✩ (3.5/5 stars). Stick's a good book that just falls short of being excellent. There's everything you expect from Elmore Leonard and even though the plot sort of suffers from a lack of impetus, you still can't go wrong with anything Leonard writes.