Elmore Leonard is a lean writer. That is not to say that his stories lack depth, rather that he is able to convey so much with fantastically sharp, meaningful prose. He does not waste words. With ‘Out of Sight’ as with most of Leonard’s writing, you feel like you jump into a story which is already underway. The story doesn’t start with you opening the book and turning to Chapter One, rather we are made immediately aware that our characters have a prior history, a life existing before we meet them.
The basic gist of the story is this. Karen Sisco, a United States Marshal drives to Glades Prison to serve some legal documentation, while waiting in her car in the prison car park she witnesses a prison break out and springs to action. Also waiting in the car park is Buddy, good friend to one of the escapees, Jack Foley. One thing leads to another and with Buddy driving, Jack and Karen end up side by side in the boot of her car…and so the adventure begins.
Leonard creates a sexy crime filled world in which the main characters Sisco and Foley periodically encounter each other. Readers are no doubt familiar with the cinematic adaptation of this book, with the characters of Sisco and Foley played by Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney. The two actors really steamed up the screen with their chemistry, and believe me their chemistry is drawn straight from the characters in the book…be careful the pages don’t burn up in your hands.
‘Can I buy you a drink?’
Without turning to look she knew who it was.
Even her insides knew, a muscle or something in the middle of her body had grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go.
Out of Sight lets us linger a while in a seedy crime laden underworld, witnessing the violent and often gruesome activities carried out by several of its inhabitants. Love them or hate them the characters are sharply drawn and the dialogue never feels forced or unnatural. Leonard has created a very real and gritty world in which his characters reside, but he manages to weave in a healthy dose of black comedy to lighten their load. Everything in this book simply fits.
Fundamentally, this book is about representations; who is good, who is bad and who any of us really are. It explores how we become trapped within our own insular world, sometimes pretending to be someone else so that we may slip into someone else’s world for a while. It is also about the irony of timing and how being in the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time can sometimes lead us down an unexpected path, but one which is well worth exploring.