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Djibouti: A Novel Hardcover – October 12, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061735175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735172
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review


Amazon Exclusive: Joe Hill Reviews Djibouti

The author of the critically acclaimed novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year's Best collections. Read his guest review of Djibouti:

In the spirit of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing, here are ten reasons why Elmore Leonard rules–a fact that has never been more obvious than in Djibouti, his 48th novel.

10. The babes. The heroine of Djibouti would be one Dara Barr, who has touched down in Africa to make a documentary about the booming piracy business and maybe win herself another Oscar. Dara is as laconic and unflappable as any of Leonard’s finest heroes (see: Hombre, Swag, The Hot Kid), with a creative and curious streak that marks her as special. Throw in an underwear model named Helene looking to make a married man out of a billionaire who likes to play C.I.A. agent, and you’ve got a book in which the gents are waaaaaay overmatched.

9. The bad boys. Creative writing teachers who want to show their students how to draft an unforgettable antagonist ought to tear out chapter 18 and pass it around. That’s where Leonard tells us the story of James Russell, a clever Miami lowlife, who reinvents himself as Jamal Raisuli, al-Queda bomb-thrower… all in 7 pages of breezy, economical characterization.

8. The talk. Plenty has been written about Elmore Leonard’s mastery of dialogue, and I don’t need to rehash it. Why bother, when I could just quote some of it? An elderly terrorist, jailed in The States, gets talking with James Russell:
“What is it you hope to become in your life?”
“Famous,” James said. “I been looking at ways.”
“Become a prophet?
“I don’t tell what will happen. I do it.”

7. The walk. Everyone hustles in an Elmore Leonard novel; you can’t stand still and hope to score. From the slums, where life is the only thing cheaper than khat, to the clubs, where it’s easier to find a pirate than out on the open ocean, everyone is on their way up or on their way down… in a hurry.

6. The sound.
Leonard famously said that if his sentences sound like writing, he rewrites them, but don’t be fooled. These sentences jump to their own dirty, hothouse jazz rhythm. There isn’t a better stylist anywhere in American letters.

5. The seduction. Dara isn’t just curious about piracy; she spends thirty days on a boat with 73-year-old Xavier LeBo, long enough to fall a little in love with her best friend, and wonder if the old dude can still get it up. Xavier bets her ten-thousand dollars he can. It’s the book’s biggest gamble; trust me, it earns out big.

4. More boom for your buck. A lot of the suspense in Djibouti revolves around a tanker filled with enough liquefied natural gas “to set off an explosion a hundred times bigger than the Hindenburg disaster.” It’s an atom bomb with a rudder and all it needs is a target.

3. The place. Leonard doesn’t beat anyone over the head with his research, but from Djibouti to Eyl to New Orleans (the three backdrops for this story), the details are crisp, unforgettable, and right. You don’t read Djibouti. You live there.

2. The pay-off. Everyone in an Elmore Leonard story wants one, but only the reader is guaranteed to get one, and boy do they, in a final chapter that seems inevitable, yet comes as completely unexpected.

1. The know-how. Let’s get to it. In the fifty-plus years he’s been turning out lean, loose, laid-back thrillers, Elmore Leonard has cast his indelible stamp on American crime fiction, inspired his peers, and spawned a thousand imitators. He’s the kind of guy critics describe as old school, but that’s missing it. Elmore Leonard isn’t old school. He built the school.

(Photo of Joe Hill by Shane Leonard)



From Publishers Weekly

In Leonard's new novel, Oscar-winning documentarian Dara Barr and her 73-year-old assistant, Xavier LeBo, travel to the Horn of Africa to film Somali pirates. They get exciting footage, but Leonard, almost perversely, provides much of the action as exposition, with the filmmakers safe and sound in hotels or on yachts, discussing their adventures over champagne. This is not good news for thriller lovers, since thrills are in short supply. But it's tremendous fun for those who can't get enough of the author's snappy patter. For Tim Cain, it's a chance to demonstrate his ability to deal with pages of witty dialogue, and he shines, demonstrating quick vocal shifts, wide-ranging accents, and well-thought-out pacing. The result is a smoothly efficient, entertaining drawing room comedy in which not even terrorism is taken too seriously. A Morrow hardcover. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

More About the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote forty-five novels and nearly as many western and crime short stories across his highly successful career that spanned more than six decades. Some of his bestsellers include Road Dogs, Up in Honey's Room, The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, and the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Fire in the Hole. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, which became Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. Justified, the hit series from FX, is based on Leonard's character Raylan Givens, who appears in Riding the Rap, Pronto, Raylan and the short story "Fire in the Hole". He was a recipient of the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA, and the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America. He was known to many as the 'Dickens of Detroit' and was a long-time resident of the Detroit area.

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Customer Reviews

I really could never get overly interested in the slow-moving plot or the thin characters.
BJ Fraser
The first half is so boring that I wasn't sure I could even finish reading it, and I ALWAYS finish a book once I start.
Barry J. Diamond
In fact all the characters seem to be shallow stereotypes of Elmore Leonard characters if that makes any sense.
J.C. Nore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By S. Horwatt VINE VOICE on October 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'll preface this review by saying that I really like Elmore Leonard's writing. But this book is a mess. I blame the mess mostly on the way Leonard chose to tell the story, which has all the standard elements of an Elmore Leonard novel, just in bland disarray. The basic story is of a documentary filmmaker and her partner who travel to the Horn of Africa to shoot a documentary about Somali pirates. There are a number of what should be colorful characters, who for some reason mostly seem flat.

For some odd reason, Leonard chooses to tell the story primarily through the two main characters reviewing documentary footage that they've shot of the main events of the novel. So that takes a lot of the suspense out, and it's confusing and kind of annoying. I could see it working in a movie (which is maybe where this is headed) but in a novel it adds nothing and makes the story harder to follow.

And the dialogue, which is usually the highlight of any Leonard novel, is pretty bland in this one, as well. Very disappointing.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on October 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've been a big-time fan of Elmore Leonard for many years and particularly like how he can spin an action yarn into a story that can easily be adapted to the big screen. Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Mr. Majestyk & Justified (the recent FX series) are just a few examples of Leonard's great skill as a story-teller.

Unfortunately, Djibouti is not a good example of what he can do when he puts his mind to it. While he is usually known for his terse prose and snappy dialogue the writing in Djibouti is choppy and disjointed to the point of incoherence. The plot also tends to be sloppy and unsatisfying. It comes off as if he couldn't decide whether he wanted to tell a story about Somali pirates or al Qaeda terrorists and ended up doing justice to neither. Major characters in the first half of the story fade to insignificance in later chapters and others pop up from nowhere and take over the story. An al Qaeda villain is indistinguishable in character from the two-bit crooks from one of Leonard's other books.

As I said previously, Leonard's stories do lend themselves to video adaptation and it's possible that this would make a fairly entertaining movie. As a book, though, I would give it a pass. There are so many good Elmore Leonard books out there that there is really no reason to settle for this marginal effort.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By pingufreddy on December 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am a HUGE Elmore Leonard fan. He is just the best writer of plot driven fiction there is; every thriller/crime writer nods his or her head to Leonard in their books: he sets the bar. This book is unlike anything I have read by the man. I am trying to read it but it has taken me 2 weeks to get to page 97. Nothing, I mean nothing, has happened. All of the Leonard trademarks, crisp writing with no flab, great characters sketched in one scene, a plot that is ingenious and organic to the characters etc. are missing. So far there has just been endless, boring, and seemingly pointless descriptions of the heroine, her computer, and the old guy she has with her. I can't read it and that is just such a shame. I have no idea what happened here but I hope Dutch is not down for the count. In a word: unreadable.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By aguacate on November 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a devoted fan. This one seems to have been ground-out; almost wanting to go direct to the movie and skip a good novel. I think he is getting bored, I certainly did.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tiger on November 2, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read and enjoyed every Elmore Leonard book and I looked forward to this, his latest effort. I was extremely disappointed and stopped reading less than one quarter of the way into the book. I found the writing to be stilted and the story uninteresting. Besides being disappointed in the book I regret that I bought it for my Kindle and didn't take it out of the library, it was a complete waste of my money.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Lundy on November 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
One of the few books you could not recommend anyone to read, let alone a Leonard fan. He must have decided to something different near the end of the his career: part political, part cut and paste writing. Reminds me of novels where the author has gone on vacation and then writes a location mystery. (John D. used to do that). Maybe he got fixated on the Somali's watching TV. Hope he has another one in him.
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Format: Hardcover
In Elmore Leonard's new novel, he writes of Somalia pirates and life in the Djibouti area.

Dara Barr is a noted filmmaker. She reads about the Somalia pirates becoming more brazen and decides to do a documentary about them. She is accompanied by a philosophical cameraman and confidante, Xavier LeBo, who stands six foot six and is a vigorous seventy-two years old.

They travel to Djibouti, in Northeast Africa, a country bordering Somalia. Dara views the pirates as the underdogs. The people of Somalia have an annual income of under $1,000. and have high malnutrition and a short life expectancy. However, they are brave enough to attempt to stop the massive tankers crossing their waters.

In their search, Dara and Xavier meet various, interesting people, none of whom seem to be what they first appear. There is the wealthy pleasure seeker, Billy Wynn, who lives on his yacht. His companion is Helene, a former model. He promises to marry her if she's proven acceptable by not becoming seasick or restless on his yacht. Billy has another side of him in reference to his dealings with pirates and al Qaeda terrorists.

Xavier introduces Dara to her first pirate, a likable man named Idris. Idris is now retired and drives his Mercedes as a status symbol. He informs Dara that he can introduce her to other pirates and one of his friends is Jama, an African American al Queda Muslim, who becomes a cold hearted killer and wants to make a statement by setting off an explosive bomb. This character seemed an exaggeration of a killer, in the sense of the killer in "No Country for Old Men." He kills his al Queda advisor with the result that there is a order to kill him by other al Queda terrorists.
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