Amazon Best of the Month, May 2009: Be Cool
. If Elmore Leonard hadn't already used it for the sequel
to Get Shorty
, it would have been a natural title for this deliciously breezy follow-up to another Leonard-to-Hollywood hit, Out of Sight
. You may best recall Jack Foley, as played by George Clooney, bantering with Jennifer Lopez in the trunk of a jailbreak getaway car, but when Out of Sight
ended, Foley was headed back to the clink to finish a 30-year bid. Road Dogs
opens with Foley on the van to prison with Cundo Rey, a pint-size Cuban who soon engineers their early release--legally, this time. Jack's happy to be out and enjoying the California hospitality of Cundo and his wife Dawn (both Leonard veterans too, from LaBrava
and Riding the Rap
). But Dawn is lovely and wily (and maybe a psychic), Cundo is a murderously jealous husband who may well think Jack owes him big-time, and Jack? Well, when you've robbed a hundred-twenty or so banks, is it that easy to go straight? As so often with Leonard, the real fun is less in the action than the talk, especially from Foley, the pleasure-minded, level-headed hood: an ex-con whose biggest con may be that he is exactly who he says he is. --Tom Nissley
Questions for Elmore Leonard
Q:Where did the inspiration for the title Road Dogs come from?
A: Road Dogs was on a list of prison expressions my researcher Gregg Sutter got for me: inmates who watch each other’s back. I liked the sound of the words together.
Q: What made you decide to bring back Jack Foley, Cundo Rey, and Dawn Navarro now? What is it about these three characters that stuck with you through the years?
A: Foley was played by George Clooney in Out of Sight. I imagined George in the scenes I wrote and it worked. Dawn Navarro was the psychic in Riding the Rap, a supporting character ready for a leading role. Cundo Rey from LaBrava, another favorite of mine, also deserved a bigger role, so I brought him back..
Q: Any chance Foley and the woman he loves, Federal Marshal Karen Sisco, will be back in the near future?
A: I’m not sure Foley is up to robbing another bank. But Karen Sisco, the federal marshal in Out of Sight, could show up again; maybe working for her dad, a private investigator.
Q: One of the hallmarks of your writing is your gift for the telling detail. When Foley is offering Cundo Rey’s money man, Jimmy, some advice about his skimming, he tells him that Cundo won’t kill him, but he might “break your legs with a José Canseco bat.” That’s one of those small yet wonderfully deft touches that adds color without slowing the pace. How do you do this so well?
A: Realism is the key to my style of writing and dialogue is what keeps it moving, always in live scenes. Rather than use my voice, my language, to describe what’s going on, I let the characters tell who they are and what they’re up to by the way they talk. Scenes are written from a character’s point of view, never mine.
Q: Many of your characters are working class stiffs and tough, intelligent broads. What draws you to these kind of characters? What do you think accounts for their popularity?
A: My women often upstage the guys; they’re natural, their own person, while my cops and criminals talk the way I’ve observed them through research and being on the scene.
Q: What’s next for Elmore Leonard?
A: Next comes Djibouti, with Dara Barr, a documentary filmmaker with the Somali pirates off the coast of East Africa.
Leonard launches three characters from previous novels on a collision course in this seemingly effortless performance. After prison buddy Cundo Rey (last seen in LaBrava
) drops a bundle on a shark attorney, celebrity bank robber Jack Foley (from Out of Sight
) gets his 30-year prison sentence reduced to 30 months. Jack's quickly back in the world, living large in one of Cundo's two multimillion-dollar houses in Venice, Calif., juggling a fast seduction with fortune-teller (from Riding the Rap
) Dawn Navarro (who is now Cundo's lady) and the untoward attention of rogue FBI agent Lou Adams, who's waiting for Foley to rob another bank. While Dawn tries to enlist Foley in a scheme to steal Cundo's off-the-books fortune, Cundo surprises them with an early release. Betrayal simmers while Foley considers going semi-straight—with the help of a widowed starlet—Dawn hatches a plan that could get her rich and rid her of all her problems, and Cundo's associates and neighborhood toughs get sucked into the fray. The plot isn't as tight as it could be, but Leonard's singular way with words is reason enough to read it. (May)
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