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52 Pick-Up

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  5,836 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
Detroit businessman Harry Mitchell had had only one affair in his twenty-two years of happy matrimony. Unfortunately someone caught his indiscretion on film and now wants Harry to fork over one hundred grand to keep his infidelity a secret. And if Harry doesn't pay up, the blackmailer and his associates plan to press a lot harder -- up to and including homicide, if necessa ...more
Published April 30th 1987 by Penguin Books Ltd. (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dan Schwent
Blackmailers have factory owner Harry Mitchell over a barrel. Either he pays them $105,000 a year or they turn over an incriminating film of him cheating on his wife to the police and press, and more, if he doesn't pay up. Too bad Harry Mitchell has ideas of his own...

Elmore Leonard sure knows how to weave a serpentine tale, doesn't he? He takes a story that seems simple on the surface, that of some blackmailers hitting up a pigeon for money, and turns it into something else all together. It was
Nov 15, 2013 Lawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of crime novels and suspense thrillers
Recommended to Lawyer by: goodreads group Pulp Fiction
52 Pickup: Elmore Leonard's Card Game

"If you want it, here it is, come and get it
Make your mind up fast
If you want it, anytime, I can give it
But you better hurry 'cause it may not last

Did I hear you say
That there must be a catch?
Will you walk away
From a fool and his money?"
--Paul McCartney, 1970

Ever played 52 Pickup? It only takes two players. A standard deck will do. It's a joke, man. The dealer's in on the trick. The stooge is the pigeon, the patsy. The dealer shuffles the deck. Ready? The de
Mar 14, 2013 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery, 2013
Harry Mitchell could be a poster boy for the Greatest Generation. He was a World War II ace fighter pilot and afterwards started his own manufacturing firm that’s become a successful business while he and his wife Barbara enjoyed a happy marriage and raised two kids.

Ah, but the mid-life crisis has made more than one man stupid, and Harry has a fling with a woman half his age. Just as he is about to break it off, Harry is confronted by a trio of blackmailers who have films that show his infidelit
Aug 03, 2010 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third earlier Leonard book that I have picked up, and like the other two (MOONSHINE WARS and MR. MAJESTYK), it is a solid read. Fast, violent, and fun.

All three books share one very distinct Leonardian quality: precision. There is nothing extraneous in any of the stories. Leonard tells only what is necessary and then moves on. It keeps the novels short and fast.

I would also argue that same quality keeps the books from reaching past a ceiling they always seem to hit. While they are go
Wayne Barrett


Classic Elmore Leonard. I was really into this book at the start, impressed as usual by the character dialogue and building excitement to the story. Unfortunately, the build-up faltered and the story, which began to lag toward the end, came to an abrupt end with an anticlimactic close... as does this review.
Jan 22, 2014 AC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
I've gotten really into genre lately -- which must surprise those who've heard me pontificate so much on Plato and on Nazis. Well, actually, not into genre, so much, as just into crime/mystery/spy novels. I still hate Sci-Fi, despite my somewhat heroic efforts to read a mass of it a year or so back. Maybe it's an age thing....

But perhaps it's not so surprising, after all. Many years ago, I learned to my great astonishment that my professor was an avid reader of mystery novels (I don't know whom
{Enter Name Here}
"We picked the wrong guy," Leo Frank said. "That's the whole thing. We picked the wrong fucking guy."

Oh Leo, you and your two low-life friends did indeed pick the wrong guy to blackmail this time.

I read 52 Pickup as a monthly read in the Pulp Fiction group here on Goodreads and I'm really glad I decided to participate. This was such a well crafted and well written crime story. The characters and their actions were realistic and it didn't come across as "phony" or one-dimensional as often these
Rebecca McNutt
Just like something straight from an episode of The Twilight Zone, the main character's bad decision comes back to get him - in the form of a home movie that captures his love affair.


He's being blackmailed, and if he puts even one foot wrong, it'll mean that his wife sees the film. Or could it mean something even darker, like murder?

Fifty-Two Pickup is a gripping, chilling and exciting novel and totally unpredictable. It's got interesting characters, a good plot and it's really worth reading.
Tammy Walton Grant
It all started with Timothy Olyphant:

Timothy plays Raylan Givens in the FX series Justified. (He's also my latest mid-life crisis, as anyone who gets my updates will know. ) That series is based on characters created by Elmore Leonard, and specifically a short story called "Fire in the Hole".

So after watching 2 seasons of Justified (all in the course of 3 weeks, but who's counting?) I was curious. I vaguely remembered that the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight were based on his books, but until
Sharadha Jayaraman
Apr 24, 2017 Sharadha Jayaraman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery-noir-lovers, all-americanos
4-star Review:
52 Pickup Elmore Leonard

DISCLAIMER: My first mystery read in a long long time warrants a biased review at that.

Set in the crime scene of Detroit, this mystery/noir novel chronicles the life of Harry Mitchell, a happy matrimony man/businessman, who's had a slip-up of sorts for the first time in his life in the form of a secret affair. He encounters trouble with a few blackmailers who threaten to expose his dalliance if he doesn't pay up the ransom they demand. The rest of the novel
Oct 22, 2011 Still rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
from the Avon paperback back-cover blurb:

Detroit businessman Harry Mitchell was having a mid-life crisis. He had an attractive wife at home. He had a voluptuous girlfriend on the side. And now he had a problem with porn movies.

He was in one.

A man with a stocking over his head and a .38 in his hand wanted a hundred grand to keep Harry's picture out of circulation. But the hoods behind this blackmail scam made a big mistake when they fingered Harry Mitchell for their pigeon...

With Elmore Leonar
I thought my first Elmore Leonard novel should be one that A) Had an impact on his career and B) Was set in Detroit. You could add to that, maybe, a book of his that was made into a movie. This book doesn't disappoint. Not as tightly plotted as, say a Westlake book, but moves along. I liked it.
Jeffrey Keeten
”We picked the wrong guy,” Leo Frank said. “That’s the whole thing. We picked the wrong fucking guy.”

 photo Pile-Of-Cash_zpsmmaeox60.jpg
They want Harry’s money.

Harry Mitchell did everything that he was supposed to do. He was a World War Two ace fighter pilot who came back from the war and started his own manufacturing company that employs hundreds of people. He married well. His wife Barbara keeps herself in shape with jogging and playing tennis and is still a very attractive women.

Everything was fine until Harry met
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2009 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reading of an Elmore Leonard book was a long time coming. And what a nice one to start with. The story is straight out of a film noir movie, man gets caught cheating on his wife by three hoodlums who blackmail him for $100,000 ... things get out of hand and revenge is taken. While the subplots do get in the way of the main story ("wife deals with husband's infidelity" and "union manager uses thug before contract talks" add very little in comparison to what they subtract from the book), this w ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Franky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
52 Pick Up is the late Elmore Leonard’s tale of one Detroit businessman’s dealings with a trio of blackmailing thugs. When his adulterous affair is caught on tape by the three men, Harry Mitchell is forced to either pay up one hundred thousand dollars or deal with the consequences. If you know Elmore Leonard novels, then you know that there is only one choice for Mitchell. As the blurb on the back cover divulges “Harry Mitchell doesn’t get mad…he gets even.”

For some reason, I found this book to
N. Jr.
Sep 22, 2014 N. Jr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I decided to become a fan of Elmore Leonard after realizing that many entertaining movies I've seen have come from his books (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Hombre). This novel was also made into a movie, though I haven't seen it yet.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that dialogue plays a key role in character development, a great technique for "showing not telling" as we writers are so often advised.

And, as with practically all of Leonard's crime books, police and law enforcement play no rol
Jack Getze
Mar 25, 2016 Jack Getze rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of Elmore's best in my opinion, and dead-on Mr. Leonard's frequent formula: Joe Average gets mixed up with dumb criminals, almost loses everything, but straightens out the bad guys in a super-exciting big finish.


A successful businessman has an affair and the girl sets him up with her criminal associates for blackmail and extortion. But Mr. Businessman is a former combat pilot and -- like all great Leonard heroes -- refuses to take shit from anybody. Look out
Jun 21, 2010 Johnny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
If Elmore Leonard is the greatest living thriller writer (as I am told on the back cover of this novel), then I must be tremendously unappreciative. I couldn’t take a steady diet of his work. I often feel punched in the gut by what happens to his characters, even when I believe they sort of deserve what they’re going through as some kind of karmic payback or poetic justice. In the case of 52 Pick-Up, the protagonist finds himself in a bit of a pickle because he couldn’t keep his pickle (wink, wi ...more
Frank Bukowski
Flawed but highly readable early crime thriller by the daddy of naturalistic dialogue

Local businessman Harry Mitchell is the respectable, hard-working boss of a small Detroit engineering company. Happily married to his wife Barbara for twenty-two years, he has a mid-life crisis affair with a young model from a nudie bar. Turns out the model works for some local hoods who start blackmailing Mitchell, threatening to expose him if he doesn’t pay them large. That’s where the novel starts. The main s
Nov 19, 2013 Col rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, l

Detroit businessman Harry Mitchell is a self-made man, happily married for over twenty-two years and a pillar of the community. But then he slips - he meets a young 'model' and begins an affair. One night he arrives at his girlfriend's apartment and finds more than he bargained for. Two masked men have caught his misdemeanours on camera and now they want a cool hundred grand. But they've picked the wrong man, because Harry Mitchell doesn't get mad - he gets even.
At the risk of earning the wrath of Elmore's vast legions of fans this wasn't all that engrossing of a novel. I went into it with high hopes. Over the years I've enjoyed the hell out of the many movies based on his books as well as his screenplays, but I've never been able to get into any of his novels. However notice I did write that it had been years. Tastes change as one ages so I tried again thinking perhaps now I would be able to appreciate his fiction. Sadly it just didn't do all that much ...more
Sep 08, 2014 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
FIFTY-TWO PICKUP. (1974). Elmore Leonard. *****.
There’s a big smile on my face: the Library of America has just published the first in a projected three-volume set of the novels of Elmore Leonard. “Fifty-two Pickup” is the first of “Dutch’s” novels to be included. I haven’t read it for years and years, and forgot how good it was, and still is. It’s the story of a businessman who made a big mistake by stepping out on his wife for the first time after twenty-some years. He has to face the music wi
52 Pickup is exciting. Pure and simple. The book moves at breakneck speed, setting up the story quickly and never allowing the reader to catch a breath. Leonard's dialogue is wonderful and the main reason I loved the book. Each character can be grasped and understood quickly thanks to the words they use. It is easy to see the coldness within Mitchell due to the words used. It is brilliant, absorbing and makes the novel a page turner.

The final chapter is a little flat and anticlimactic. It left
Oct 27, 2013 Bobbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's something fascinating about a regular joe not just getting in over his head in bad trouble, but facing up to it and being enough man to handle it without flinching. Finding that we have unexpected strength and the capability to go to violent lengths to protect the things we love is a dream we all harbor, I think.
Aug 31, 2014 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Read this as part of Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970s: Fifty-Two Pickup / Swag / Unknown Man No. 89 / The Switch: but I think I also have it on Kindle standalone, so I figured I'd mark it as this as I make my way through the other three books.

I don't know, man. This is pretty good. The set-up is great: group of three half-assed thugs try to scam a presumed rich man out of six-figures through blackmail, and then ramp it up with a murder charge when he calls their bluff. The half-asses are
Carl R.
Dec 20, 2013 Carl R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mitch is a bit of a mogul. He's parlayed a couple of inventions and a good business mind into a prosperous business selling parts to Detroit auto manufacturers. Then he gets involved in one of those mid-life affairs and ends up paying a much higher price than anyone should. It's minor, this thing, and he cuts it off after three months and tells the wife, who isn't pleased, but the marriage should survive. However, it soon appears that the couple themselves might not.

Three ambitious, though not p
Jun 16, 2011 V. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 06, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
"It's a shame, ain't it? Everybody trying to mess up everybody."

That line comes from Elmore Leonard's immensely pleasurable Fifty-Two Pickup, but it could just as easily have come from its literary forebear, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. According to the chronology provided in the Library of America's inaugural volume collecting his best work, Leonard was advised to read George V. Higgins' game-changing crime novel in 1972, with its legendary dialogue and brilliant portraits of the sad sacks of th
Jan 12, 2010 E.C.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been reading a lot of Leonard lately and this earlier novel is a true gem. Leonard can be relied upon to deftly carve a scene, write engaging dialogue and come up with original characters and in this regard, 52 Pick Up is no different. But where this novel really excels is in the emotional connection between the protagonist, Harry Mitchell and his wife. There is a subtlety that Leonard brings to the scenes between these two characters which shows a real understanding of marriage. Leonard of ...more
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What's your favorite Dutch Leonard book? 6 25 Jan 16, 2015 09:43PM  
Pulp Fiction: November 2013 - 52 Pick Up 23 65 Dec 19, 2013 03:51PM  
  • Wild Town
  • Hollywood Nocturnes
  • The Big Blowdown
  • Poetic Justice (A Kate Fansler Mystery #3)
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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“She said very quietly, “Mitch?” “What?” “There’s somebody downstairs.” “I know there is.” 1 likes
“Quiet and calculating. He hasn’t changed that much since. Always mild-mannered, the nice guy—until someone steps over the line and challenges him.” 1 likes
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