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Pagan Babies Mass Market Paperback – January 8, 2002

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarTorch (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060008776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060008772
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

After 30-odd novels, one might think that Elmore Leonard has nothing left to prove. But Pagan Babies, a novel filled with his signatures (tight plotting, scathing wit, and that grittily realistic dialogue), shows once again why he sets the standard against which other crime novels are measured. In fact, Leonard has raised the bar. How many authors would dare use the Rwandan genocide as backdrop for a story that moves gaily between romantic comedy and a massive, labyrinthine con? More to the point, how many of them would pull it off?

Father Terry Dunn doesn't have qualms about substituting punishment for penance. If that means killing four Hutu murderers who slaughtered his Tutsi congregation, so be it. Being an instrument of divine wrath has certain disadvantages, however, so Dunn breaks camp and heads for Detroit, where he's welcomed by family, a five-year-old federal indictment for tax fraud, and a fast-talking fireball named Debbie Dewey. Fresh from a stint in prison for assaulting her former fiancé, Randy, with a Ford Escort, Debbie is out for revenge:

"I still can't believe I fell for it. He tells me he's retired from Merrill Lynch, one of their top traders, and I believed him. Did I check? No, not till it was too late. But you know what did me in, besides the hair and the tan? Greed. He said if I had a savings account that wasn't doing much and would like to put it to work... He shows me his phony portfolio, stock worth millions, and like a dummy I said, 'Well, I've got fifty grand not doing too much.' I signed it over and that's the last I saw of my money."
It's only a matter of time before Debbie's desire for cold, hard cash and Dunn's fundraising for Rwandan orphans join forces in a carefully plotted financial assault on Randy's benefactor, Tony Amilia, who just happens to be the last of the old-school Detroit Mafia. Throw in a couple of hit men to whom loyalty is a foreign word, and you've got vintage Leonard: a fast-paced, roller-coaster ride of a novel where deceiver and deceived are gloriously shifty signifiers. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Buscemi offers a standard, dry reading of Leonard's sly new tale, which is appropriate (though his attempt at producing African accents is unconvincing) for the opening scene: Rwanda after its rabid interethnic violence. Unordained priest "Father" Terry Dunn ministers to the local congregants (47 of whom were slashed to death) and shacks up with his housekeeper until he decides to take matters of justice into his own hands. Having arrived in Africa on the lam from a criminal charge in the U.S., Terry returns home to Detroit under similar circumstances. But Buscemi's tone never becomes as lithe as Leonard's tale does in Detroit; his best effort at atmosphere is the smart-alecky tone he gives to Terry's confederate Debbie Dewey, an aspiring stand-up comic just released from prison for having tried to run over the ex-boyfriend who scammed her out of thousands of dollars. Debbie intends to scam him back and joins up with Terry, who has his own shady operation. Debbie's ex fronts for the mob and is in cahoots with a witless hit man called Mutt, who in turn allies himself with an ex-smuggling partner of Terry's. Everyone tries to protect his or her own interest in the rapidly circulating money. One can't help feeling that the abridgement has cut out some vital material before Terry's final return to Rwanda. All in all, though, this is a hugely entertaining story by LeonardAalbeit one conveyed only moderately well by Buscemi. Simultaneous release with the Dell hardcover (Forecasts, July 3). (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Leonard, however, seems to have little steam left.
bernie gongora
Alas, this is nothing more than good mindless entertainment for a day or two at the beach.
Christian Orsted
This was a fun read, and I would recommend this book to anyone.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on January 23, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Elmore Leonard just keeps going and going and going. I guess he never runs out of insane situations to write about, quirky protagonists, nefarious bad guys and quick-witted not-quite-so-bad guys, conniving (or totally innocent - - but rarely) beautiful women, stellar dialogue, twisted plots...

I dunno, but I'll read anything he writes cuz I know I'm going to be royally entertained.

Pagan Babies concerns Terry, a guy on the lam from the IRS, who hies himself off to Rwanda to stay with his priest/uncle, and while there he witnesses the genocide. Leonard downplays the grisly, horrific details of this, but we can tell it has changed Terry in some fundamental way. When his uncle dies, he sort of assumes the priest alb and carries on in his stead for something like 5 yrs, hearing confessions, giving penance, and occasionally even saying Mass.

He comes back to the states, still playing the priest, and meets up with Debbie Dewey, the usual lovely you'll find in Leonard's books, only this one just got out of jail for assaulting her ex with a Ford Escort and wants to be a stand-up comic focusing on prison humor. Hello? I mean, you can't make this stuff up! But Elmore Leonard does.

They team up to pull of a scam, and things of course go awry - and that's all I'm going to tell you.

Read it. It's a hoot.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Father Terry Dunn knows it is time to leave the Rwanda massacre. His church contains forty-seven corpses turning to "leather." Although Terry is hiding as a priest, he cannot take any more of the killing fields. He kills several of the culprits but flees home to Detroit. He originally fled to avoid jail time.

Debbie Dewey has just left prison after three years for trying to run over her former husband with a car. Debbie wants to become a stand-up comic until she meets Terry still masquerading as a priest. They are immediately attracted to one another and he brings her into his current con, bilking wealthy patrons in a save the Rwandan children cause which is another name for his wallet. She ups the ante by persuading him that her ex and the mob boss he is tied to is the perfect pigeon.

PAGAN BABIES is more than vintage Leonard. This novel is classic Leonard wildly destroying moral barriers. The story line is entertaining, never eases up, and contains Mr. Leonard's graphic but picturesque prose that shows he is quite a talent. The characters are typical of Mr. Leonard's novel as they run the full spectrum of sleaze, in other words likable to detestable parasites. This tale is superb reading for those fans that enjoy something different along the lines of a fabulously written crime drama heavily spiced with the absurd.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By flodnag on October 12, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ok, so I'm a little late in reviewing this one, it's been out awhile, and I finally gave this one attention over the other hoards of stuff I buy and eventually get too... anyways, enough of that. This started off as a really strong novel, it was quick to set things up, had some very compelling characters, great dialog, off humor, it had it all. It created a great con game and set it up well, had you hoping for the cons, stick it to the badder cons! Problem is, you're over 1/2 way through the book and things are still being set up, doesn't leave much room left for the conclusion... which was, surprise, rushed. I don't know if he was pressed for time, got fed up writing, the cab was out there waiting for him or what, but after such a great set up and things start rolling, it just flew through the last bit. Guess it was to show that it all happened quickly, but still... disappointing. It's well worth reading, maybe deserves more stars but that just a bit of a let down to me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sebastien Pharand on September 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Pagan Babies is a great beach book. It's short, tongue-in-cheek and always entertaining. It presents us with an off-the-wall plot that never stops taking twists and turns in every which way.
What I like about Leonard is the skill with which he writes dialogue. His novels are usually 90% dialogue; he is a master at giving each character a distinct voice and feel. And his dialogue is always very sarcastic. I found myself laughing more than once at the way the characters talked and acted.
A scam plot like this one needs to be believable in order to work. Here, you have a pretend priest and a woman who wants to scam a quarter million out of a rich mob boaa. The plot is highly entertaining and very funny. The novel is very straight to the point. It is genuine Leonard and it would make a great movie! It seems to me that Leonard keeps getting better with time. I, for one, awaits his next book with great anticipation!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer X on March 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the perfect example of a good writer taking a serious misstep, but because he is so good the story still occasionally works. I am not going to review the story, that has been done here many times, but I will give my opinion of the novel.
I think the story was forced and contrived, but the humor and sheer ridiculousness of the story keeps the reader reading. Also, the story is so strange but decently written you keep thinking that it will get better eventually. Well, it doesn't. This is not to say that it is a terrible book, not at all, but it is not a great book. Hell, it is barely a good book, but it does have its moments. I would suggest anything else, unless you have read everything else.
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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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