Review

Road Dogs

by Elmore Leonard

Where would we be without Elmore Leonard? He’s done it all
in genre fiction: caper novels, westerns, easterns, historicals,
private eye. Read one and you will want to read them all. His work
even spawned an entire sub-genre of films that tried (for the most
part well but ultimately unsuccessfully) to capture what he has
been able to do consistently on the printed page. ROAD DOGS,
Leonard’s latest novel, meets the definition of
“cool,” bringing together three disparate characters
from three of his previous books in an amusing though uneasy set of
shifting alliances that keep the reader guessing from beginning to
end.

Anointed by the media as America’s foremost bank robber,
Jack Foley, following the events in OUT OF SIGHT, is doing a
30-year stretch in Florida with no hope of parole. He is on the pen
bus when he meets Cundo Rey, last seen bleeding out in LaBRAVA. Rey
has had a number of adventures since then, not the least of which
have involved acquiring real estate and a lot of money in Venice
Beach, California. He has also obtained a de facto wife, Dawn
Navarro, a professional psychic who the stalwart fan will remember
from RIDING THE RAP. Rey ends up providing Foley with an attorney
who gets his sentence reduced to three months, and Foley is
released just two weeks ahead of Rey.

This doesn’t sit well with Lou Adams, an FBI special agent
who has an unhealthy obsession with, and jealousy of, Foley. Adams
dogs Foley’s path from his first steps out of prison all the
way out to his new digs in Venice Beach, betting that Foley
can’t go 30 days without robbing a bank. Foley is waiting for
Rey to get released and join up with him in Venice for at least one
caper, and has little to do but make the acquaintance of Navarro
under the watchful radar of Little Jimmy, who (depending on who you
ask) is either Rey’s money man or his boss. The weather is
hot and steamy, the liquor never stops flowing, and the scheming is
going every which way but loose. Adams recruits, by threat of
deportment, a local gangbanger named Tico to keep an eye on Foley.
But barely 24 hours pass before they are drinking Jack Daniels neat
and smoking cigarettes while checking each other out and
determining how they’re going to lay some blowback and
payback on Adams.

Of course, everyone is scheming on everyone else, and, as Foley
so wisely notes to himself in ROAD DOGS, what you see isn’t
what you think it is. Words to live by. And it gets even better ---
or worse, depending on your point of view --- once Rey gets to
town. Rey has more loose screws than a hardware store, and Navarro,
who has been waiting for him during his eight-year stint as a guest
of the state of Florida, has her own ideas about a reward. Foley is
caught in the middle of all of this, which he does not endure with
good grace. As with all of Leonard’s works, there are plenty
of memorable moments, not the least of which are a pickup
basketball game, a dinner party where the main course is just a
warm-up for dessert, and a game called roofball that you
don’t want to play. The question for the book’s
conclusion is not so much who will be left standing when the dust
settles and the smoke clears, but if anyone will be left at
all.

Whether you have read all of Leonard’s previous titles,
are totally new to his canon, or cherry-picked his work here and
there through the kindness of strangers and friends, you will love
ROAD DOGS. File this one under “how the job is
done.”

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Road Dogs
by Elmore Leonard

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0061733148
  • ISBN-13: 9780061733147