Out of Sight Characters
by Elmore Leonard

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Out of Sight Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

When we first meet Karen Sisco, the blonde deputy U.S. Marshal is wearing a $3,500 black Chanel suit with a short skirt. But Karen Sisco is not the fantasy figure that Jack Foley sees. She is not a romantic, either, as he is. Instead, she is a strong, no-nonsense female in the maledominated law enforcement industry. She can rack a pump-action shotgun or put down a sexual assault such as attempted by Moselle's brother Kenneth. She knows, when the crunch comes, not to give an inch. At one point Foley asks her why she ever became a federal marshal, and she tells him, "The idea of going after guys like you . . . appealed to me." She has not been lucky in love. She cannot seem to find "her type." Usually married men hit on her. She has come to peace with being alone and single and is not desperate to trade it for the dubious romances her career seems to offer her. As she describes it, "Why settle for some cowboy cop who drank too much and cheated on his wife?" She is her own boss in romance. Once before she dated a bank robber, although she had not known his occupation at the time. She had rejected him as a potential lover before she discovered the truth about him. And when the time came, she "shot him" and brought him to justice.

With Karen, too, appearances can be deceptive. Karen is misunderstood and taken for granted by the FBI, by her coworkers, by some advertising executives at a cocktail lounge, and by the senior citizens at a Florida residence hotel. When she must, she can withhold information from the FBI. At the midpoint in the novel, Karen sees the fugitive Foley at his ex-wife's hotel; she does not inform the other law enforcement officials. Yet single-handedly she captures Jose "Chino" Chirino, and then she parlays that capture into a position on the Task Force. Later she outmaneuvers FBI special agent Burdon during the Superbowl game into approving her trip to Detroit.

Jack Foley seems to be a gentleman thief, a bank robber whose heart is in the right place. Yet most often Foley is revealed as a man trapped in his life like a character trapped inside a movie script. He is a forty-seven-year-old "celebrity hardtimer." For the last thirty years his career has been bank robber. Nine of those thirty years he has spent in prison. "In stir, he's as cool as they come." He is serving his third prison stretch and is described by the authorities as "habitual, not violent." He is so well-adapted to prison life, he has his own rum smuggling operation. Yet he has no respect for his fellow prisoners; they are only "misfits and morons." Foley identifies more with "the boys of yesteryear," the bank robbers of the Depression era. Foley can rob banks with the ease that comes from a lifetime on the wrong side of the law. He does not know how many banks he has robbed, perhaps as many as two hundred. But a certain malaise has come into his life; Foley points out that being a career bank robber has its downsides. "You know, after a while it gets to be the same old thing. You try to come up with ways to make it interesting." Foley is cunning enough to take advantage of other convicts' prison escape, yet he is strikingly inept outside the prison system. Often he disguises himself in foppish costumes. He senses how impoverished his life has become; he wants more, but is unsure what that might be.

But in Leonard's world, criminals are always criminals, and Foley, for all his differences with the other criminals the reader meets in the novel, is at heart one of them. His prison escape is made possible by his piggybacking off the six Cubans' escape plans. He succeeds because he betrays them; there is no honor among thieves. Foley robs a bank on his first day as a fugitive; he pretends that a perfect stranger is his accomplice. He does recognize that he has problems surviving in society. Foley ruefully admits to Buddy how he ended up in Glades Prison. After he robbed a bank, Foley was cut off in traffic; his heart filled with road rage, Foley chased...

(The entire section is 1,588 words.)