This was Elmore Leonard’s first novel, published in 1969. All the components of his future novels are there: the terse dialog, the settings in Florida and Michigan, the sociopaths and psychopaths.
Leonard has a method that is worth studying. He introduces places, then he introduces the people in those places, then he makes those people interact. It’s a well-oiled machine, a Leonard novel.
In The Big Bounce we meet a drifter who has done a little prison time and who recently nearly beat someone to death with a baseball bat. He’s actually not a bad guy, not really, just a bit wild and unwilling to take crap from anyone, and not at all dedicated to the idea of hard work. And we meet a 20 year old woman, the mistress of the drifter’s ex-boss, a sociopath, always looking for a kick, which usually involves doing damage to someone or something.
You get a feeling from this book - the same feeling you get from the best of the Raymond Chandler novels. There’s a kind of languor and coolness to the main characters that makes you think of Bogart and Bacall in The Big Sleep. But underlying that is a tension, the sense of something being wound impossibly tight, liable to break at any moment. It’s a great combination.