Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard

May 9, 2009
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Road Dogs
Elmore Leonard

William Morrow
5-09-09
Hardcover/292 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-173314-7
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". . .a master storyteller with a macabre and dry sense of humor."

Road Dogs: Slow paced, intimate portrait of two ex-cons and a scheming psychic.

Jack Foley has just returned to Glades Correctional in Florida to serve the rest of a thirty year sentence for allegedly robbing two hundred banks. Also at Glades is Cundo Rey, a Cuban serving seven years for manslaughter. The neo-Nazi skinheads at their table in the dining hall take their shots at Jack, and he ignores them. They turn their sights on Cundo. Jack makes the skinheads laugh, turning their attention away from picking on Cundo and winning Cundo’s respect.

Jack becomes a celebrity of sorts, soft spoken, intelligent and respected. Cundo is a short Cuban with a hair trigger temper and lots of money who knows how to get things done. Theirs is a match made in Glades.

Cundo feels he owes Jack, so he pays a high priced attorney to get Jack’s thirty year sentence lightened. In return Jack gets out of jail a few weeks ahead of Cundo and promises to go to Los Angeles to watch over Cundo’s wife Dawn Navarro, a psychic mind reader with a taste for rich old ladies’ money. With Special Agent Lou Adams, the FBI agent who put Jack in prison, on Jack’s tail waiting for Jack to give in and rob another bank, and Dawn determined to make eight years of waiting finally pay off, Jack’s luck may finally have run out.

It’s hard to turn a bank robber, a millionaire hustler with a violent temper and a psychic con artist into interesting and likable characters, but Elmore Leonard had me at the macaroni and cheese with Road Dogs. Watching these characters in action is like watching a three-sided ping-pong game and just as fascinating. The minor characters add palpable subtle texture and layers to this black comedy of crime and justice. It’s easy to see why Jack Foley is such a hard man to resist.

Anyone who can charm nearly two hundred bank tellers into giving up the goods with a polite note can’t be all bad, which makes Leonard a master storyteller displaying a macabre and dry sense of humor. Bravo, Elmore Leonard.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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