Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard (Hardcover, 2009)|
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Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This is a 272-page novel by one of the all-time great novelists. You probably have to like the genre to truly appreciate the book, because the characters are probably not people you can relate to. They are career criminals, ex-cons, and losers in general. If you read the book Get Shorty or watched the movie, you understand how Elmore Leonard so fully and believably develops characters. This novel, like his others, is character-driven.
In this novel, I recognized three characters from previous works. The interaction of these characters allows the story to have some surprising twists to it. In a previous novel, it seemed Jack Foley was essentially "killed off" unless Leonard was going to write in prison novel. I didn't expect to see Foley again, but here he is.
Jack Foley is a bank robber, one who may hold the all-time record for the number of banks robbed. Most of us would consider someone in this line of "work" to be among the lowest of society's parasite class. It's a credit to Leonard that he can write such a character in a way that we see him as human and find ourselves rooting for him. He does have some redeeming qualities and comes across as deeply flawed but not hopelessly so. In fact, at his core, Foley has a certain integrity and confidence that we can only admire.
While in prison, Foley hooks up with another character from a previous Leonard novel: Cundo Rey. They become, in prison parlance, "road dogs," meaning they watch out for each other. Rey, who owns a hugely successful business on the outside, arranges for expert legal help to get Foley released early. So early, as to be just before Rey's own release. That particular scheduling allows for some interesting things to happen.
Rey's wife, Dawn Navarro, is a seductive, manipulative, and clever character from a previous Leonard novel. She's been biding her time for the eight years of Rey's incarceration.
Other characters enter the story, moving the plot along and providing challenges and assistance to the three lead characters. One is Lou Adams, an FBI agent who is determined to catch Foley again and put him away for good. Another is Little Jimmy, who is Rey's money man and who actually runs Rey's business. Where his loyalties lie is a pivotal question in this novel.
Foley finds himself immersed in a cauldron of games, emotions, subterfuge, betrayal, and deception. As in previous novels, he keeps his cool.
I enjoyed the book, though I think the note from the publisher (first page facing inside cover) was a bit of oversell. I don't consider Leonard's greatest work ever. But it's good. It's definitely got the Elmore Leonard touch to it. And it's very entertaining. Probably, this will be made into another entertaining movie. Let's hope so.