Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Road Dogs, by Elmore Leonard

Jack Foley is looking at 30 years for his exploits from Out of Sight. In prison, he becomes friends with Cundo Rey, who introduces him to a hot-shot lawyer. Said lawyer gets Foley off with not much more than time served. Cundo lets Foley stay at one of his houses until Cundo’s release, provided Foley keeps an eye on Cundo’s common law wife Dawn Navarro. Foley can’t help feel that a larger hook is attached to Cundo’s generosity.

I’ll start right off the bat and say I was disappointed in Road Dogs. I read it before I read The Dawn Patrol and have only gotten around to writing about it now (a month later). Elmore Leonard is one of the great American writers without a doubt. His books are known more for their cool characters and snappy dialogue than their tight plotting, and that’s OK. But some of his books could use a bit more plotting.

Road Dogs has all the elements of a great book. Jack Foley is back in action. Cundo Rey is back from the dead. Even is-she-or-isn’t-she psychic Dawn Navarro is back. Foley thinks Cundo wants him to rob a bank to repay his kindness. He’s also pursued by an obsessed FBI man who is adamant about catching Foley in the act and sending him to jail for the 200 banks he’s robbed. Lots of tension. Lots of irons in the fire. The first 50-70 pages are classic EL. Then….I felt the book lost some steam. Foley sleeps with Dawn and is recruited into one of her scams. Is Cundo pissed that Foley slept with her? Not as much as you’d think.

It was hard to get a read on Cundo. I was never sure if he expected something of Foley or if he was just helping out a friend. After his prison release, the book turns into The Dawn Show. She turns to Cundo’s friends to try to scam him out of his money and his houses. Why did she wait all the time Cundo was in prison? Why now?

There are some fun moments with Lou Adams (the FBI man hounding Foley), but I felt his storyline never went anywhere.

I’m still a fan of Elmore’s, but I’d take Swag or City Primeval any day of the week over Road Dogs.

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