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Djibouti [Hardcover]

Elmore Leonard
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Feb 2011

Dara Barr, documentary filmmaker, is at the top of her game. She's covered Bosnian women, Neo-Nazis and post-Katrina New Orleans (for which she won an Oscar), but now she's looking for an even bigger challenge. So she and her right-hand-man - a six-foot-six African-American called Xavier - head to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa to tackle modern-day pirates. Once they start filming, they find a whole lot more than they bargained for, and quickly learn that almost no one in Djibouti is what he seems.

A mob of colourful characters patrols the seas, including a pirate chief with a taste in fine cars, and an Oxford-educated sheikh with scams of his own. And then there's the gun-toting playboy Billy Wynn: Texan billionaire, collector of supermodels, and law unto himself. But even he hasn't reckoned on an appearance from James Russell, an American al Qaeda convert who wants to blow up something big. As hijacked tankers line up like floating bombs, Dara and Xavier know it's time for a showdown. But which guy is going to get the prize - and what will he have to do to get it?

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 1st Edition edition (10 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297856723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297856726
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans on 11 October 1925. He wrote forty-five books during his phenomenal career, including the bestsellers Mr Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool and The Hot Kid. Many have been made into successful movies, including Get Shorty with John Travolta, Out of Sight with George Clooney and Rum Punch, which became Tarantino's Jackie Brown. He is the recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award and the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award. He died on 20 August 2013 in Detroit.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Amazon Exclusive: Joe Hill Reviews Djibouti

The author of the critically acclaimed novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year's Best collections. Read his guest review of Djibouti:

In the spirit of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing, here are ten reasons why Elmore Leonard rules–a fact that has never been more obvious than in Djibouti, his 48th novel.

10. The babes. The heroine of Djibouti would be one Dara Barr, who has touched down in Africa to make a documentary about the booming piracy business and maybe win herself another Oscar. Dara is as laconic and unflappable as any of Leonard’s finest heroes (see: Hombre, Swag, The Hot Kid), with a creative and curious streak that marks her as special. Throw in an underwear model named Helene looking to make a married man out of a billionaire who likes to play C.I.A. agent, and you’ve got a book in which the gents are waaaaaay overmatched.

9. The bad boys. Creative writing teachers who want to show their students how to draft an unforgettable antagonist ought to tear out chapter 18 and pass it around. That’s where Leonard tells us the story of James Russell, a clever Miami lowlife, who reinvents himself as Jamal Raisuli, al-Queda bomb-thrower… all in 7 pages of breezy, economical characterization.

8. The talk. Plenty has been written about Elmore Leonard’s mastery of dialogue, and I don’t need to rehash it. Why bother, when I could just quote some of it? An elderly terrorist, jailed in The States, gets talking with James Russell:
“What is it you hope to become in your life?”
“Famous,” James said. “I been looking at ways.”
“Become a prophet?
“I don’t tell what will happen. I do it.”

7. The walk. Everyone hustles in an Elmore Leonard novel; you can’t stand still and hope to score. From the slums, where life is the only thing cheaper than khat, to the clubs, where it’s easier to find a pirate than out on the open ocean, everyone is on their way up or on their way down… in a hurry.

6. The sound.
Leonard famously said that if his sentences sound like writing, he rewrites them, but don’t be fooled. These sentences jump to their own dirty, hothouse jazz rhythm. There isn’t a better stylist anywhere in American letters.

5. The seduction. Dara isn’t just curious about piracy; she spends thirty days on a boat with 73-year-old Xavier LeBo, long enough to fall a little in love with her best friend, and wonder if the old dude can still get it up. Xavier bets her ten-thousand dollars he can. It’s the book’s biggest gamble; trust me, it earns out big.

4. More boom for your buck. A lot of the suspense in Djibouti revolves around a tanker filled with enough liquefied natural gas “to set off an explosion a hundred times bigger than the Hindenburg disaster.” It’s an atom bomb with a rudder and all it needs is a target.

3. The place. Leonard doesn’t beat anyone over the head with his research, but from Djibouti to Eyl to New Orleans (the three backdrops for this story), the details are crisp, unforgettable, and right. You don’t read Djibouti. You live there.

2. The pay-off. Everyone in an Elmore Leonard story wants one, but only the reader is guaranteed to get one, and boy do they, in a final chapter that seems inevitable, yet comes as completely unexpected.

1. The know-how. Let’s get to it. In the fifty-plus years he’s been turning out lean, loose, laid-back thrillers, Elmore Leonard has cast his indelible stamp on American crime fiction, inspired his peers, and spawned a thousand imitators. He’s the kind of guy critics describe as old school, but that’s missing it. Elmore Leonard isn’t old school. He built the school.

(Photo of Joe Hill by Shane Leonard)


arresting comeback with a vibrant contemporary thriller - exhilarating read, full of fun, energy and offbeat narrative ploys. (JOHN DUGDALE SUNDAY TIMES - 30 January 2011)

Ridiculously enjoyable book. (DAVID SEXTON EVENING STANDARD -3 February 2011)

the 85-year-old writer reminds us just why his critical standing is so high.... Leonard has found his mojo again, and has us in the palm of his hand. (BARRY FORSHAW INDEPENDENT - 25 February 2011)

Praises Leonard as 'the world's greatest living crime writer', and gives the novel a five star rating. (HENRY SUTTON DAILY MIRROR 4 February 2011)

energetic and exhilarating thriller (SUNDAY TIMES - 6 February 2011)

still shows more energy in his writing than many authors half his age... As usual, Leonard gives you plenty of bangs for your buck. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 13 February 2011)

in his 44th novel he is refraining from just making carbon copies of his old masterpieces and instead takes the risk of sailing into rather more unfamiliar waters (SUNDAY EXPRESS - 13 February 2011)

well-researched...superb characters... a sense of transcendent pace, a fleeing away of time to which everything else is subordinated. (GILES FODEN THE GUARDIAN - 12 February 2011)

'At 85, Elmore Leonard has lost none of his mastery of zinging dialogue and credible characterisation - this time in a particularly exotic setting." (THE SCOTSMAN - 30 January 2011)

there's a nod to screen adaptation in Elmore Leonard's Somali piracy yarn (THE FINANCIAL TIMES - 20 February 2011)

deliciously to-the-point dialogue, the pages fly by in a highly entertaining manner (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY - 6 February 2011)

To say that Elmore 'Dutch' Leonard is a legend in the crime-fiction genre might understate the case (BELFAST TELEGRAPH - 5 March 2011)

All Leonards are masterpieces... Trust Leonard. Trust Djibouti. (SUNDAY HERALD - 27 February 2011)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh How the mighty have fallen 24 Nov 2011
I have been a fan of Elmore leonard for several years and read ALL his books. However, I am really disappointed in his last 2 Roads Dogs and Djibouti. Whilst thet retain some of his clipped dialogue and characterisation its all very clique'd and turgid. He seems to be writing a screenplay rather than a novel as we follow the action through the playback of a video camera. I know the old boy is 89 or something now and am afraid to say he seems to have lost that indefinable "thing" that made his books so great, unput downable and fun. Maybe its just me getting older? but I find it all rather nauseating and a pastiche of his previous work.Oh well it was good while it lasted. sorry elmore but maybe you should rest and enjoy your old age in quiet.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Elmore's best 22 Oct 2011
By J. D. Naylor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Have read virtually all of Elmore Leonard's novels over the years but this one just didn't grip me. The usual colourful characters and snappy dialogue are there but the plot is very one dimentional with no real surprises.
Elmore's novels are often slim on plot and rich in characterisation but this one just didn't do it for me i'm afraid. Enjoyed his previous two novels,which, despite being in his eighties were still excellent efforts from the great man.
One miss out of many,many hits in a long and distinguished career.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull stuff 7 Mar 2012
By Y
I adore EL's work but this was a dud and a half. Many glorious settings - all very colourful and lush but two-dimensional all the same. I found the villain, hero and heroine equally forgettable. Wasn't too keen on the previous couple of books, either, for similar reasons.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A hard act to follow 29 Nov 2012
Have read at least half of his books. Found this novel lacking the flow and ease of EL's usual writing and struggled more than ever with the slang in the dialogues. The opening chapters are OK. The objective is to shoot a documentary about Somali pirates. One learns about the prime movers, white Dara (36) and black Xavier (72), her fixer and cameraman, both from New Orleans. Dara is famous: three docs, three major prizes. This one has to become a hit too.
Chapter 5 marks a turning point, when >3 weeks later they are back in a luxury hotel in Djibouti and argue about the 12 hours of material they shot. Some 60-80 confusing, tedious, jarring pages follow full of flashbacks and flash forwards about how to turn what they have into a doc. This part truly discourages further reading. But persistent readers are treated to a mongrel of a book full of strengths and weaknesses about (1) an al-Qaida plot to explode a huge LNG-tanker in a Louisiana port, or in Djibouti itself; (2) a well-connected Texas billionaire testing his model girlfriend, following the tanker in their yacht; (3) Afro-American al-Qaida warrior James Russell, a.k.a. Jama Raisuli, cornered in Somalia and Djibouti. Etc., etc., because EL is a master of subplots.

What kept me alert and reading was what was brewing between Dara and slim, old, 6/6 tall Xavier, who staked his fee + expenses on the outcome of a bet with Dara about his virility... The novel improves beyond the halfway point, but loses credibility with EL creating a Somali named Kwame (a purely Ghanaian first name) and a Djibouti Chief of Police who starts talking slang like Xavier. For real fans only.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unstoppable Elmore 22 Nov 2011
For the first 80 pages or so, I wondered if the octogenarian Leonard could still get it up - like his alter-ego hero, Xavier does in this wonderful thriller. Unlike the usual streamlined books he has always produced, the opening chapters leaped back and forth in time. 'Jesus', I murmured - 'this is not working for me.' Then everything clicked and the thriller did what his thrillers always do. It was funny, unexpected, complex, simple, had fabulous characters and kept you reading like your hands are glued to the book.

Post Get Shorty, everything Leonard writes seems like a movie. He loves playing with 'Hollywood reality' and Djibouti delivers this feeling as well as that book and Out of Sight. So... what happens? A documentary film maker called Dara is shooting a film on piracy in and around Djibouti. She gets in over head with an al Queda plot to blow up a tanker carrying LNG (liquified natural gas). Her cameraman is Xavier, a 73 year old tall, lanky black American (unlike the 83 year old tall, lanky white Leonard) - and they become the heroes/ lovers of the story. Jama Ruseuli (James Russell)makes for a super-fine villain, killing everyone in sight as the American ex-con Muslim convert tasked to blow up the ship. Leonard seems to be able to magic up these nuts and make them so real you feel you know them.

Leonard's plot motors forward at a fantastic pace. His writing is beautiful, spare and compelling. The characters are all beautifully drawn individuals, the descriptions perfect models of economy and the story compelling to the very end. The only incredible thing is the winter/spring romance between the principals, but this is so obviously a Leonard fantasy that you'll forgive him.

This is far better than the more serious al Queda novels, like the Terrorist by John Updike, and others I have read. It's got the touch of a master.

Fabulous writer, fabulous thriller. Read it and try to stop.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Going out a with a bang 11 Mar 2014
This was Elmore Leonard's last book before his recent death. I am a long term fan and was hoping for something worthy of him, to stand as an epitaph. This succeeds in that. This might not be one of the classic Leonard thrillers but it's a typically fast, funny and violent story, with the crackling dialogue that was Leonard's hallmark.

The story weaves together the paths of a female documentary maker and her 72-her old male assistant, a Somali pirate, a British/Arab wheeler-dealer, a billionaire American crackpot and an American al Qaeda operative. They're all interested in different ways in a huge tanker full of liquid gas, and the struggle to reach their various conflicting goals gets more frantic and more desperate as the book unfolds.

The book isn't without flaws - there are a lot of big characters crammed in a short book, which makes one or two of them a bit superficial by Leonard's standards, and I didn't buy the sexual relationship between the documentary film maker and her aged assistant - but I loved this book, which made me very happy that one of the great modern American writers ended on a suitably high note.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "is this how it ends" "we must be close to it."
Prophetic words from the master. His last book. Dealing with Al Qaeda, criminals, odd couples, boats and that Elmore Leonard dialogue that just carries you along at speed and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by London Rat
4.0 out of 5 stars Rave reviews of Leonard prompted me
Difficult to get to grips with language, plot not too bad, but certainly doesn't warrant rave reviews this author received. Not a patch on Grisham or Wilbur Smith.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs. Shirley O. Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 stars Bang up to date
This really was an excellent book. I had to check the inside cover to see when it was written as it was so up to date. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jeremy Stewart
1.0 out of 5 stars Ghost written?
I love Elmore Leonard. When people ask me my favourite author, more often than not, his name is the one I find leaping to the tip of my tongue. Read more
Published 22 months ago by C. G. Fewtrell
2.0 out of 5 stars There's no place like home
I've been an Elmore Leonard fan for many years. His humourous,low-life characters,their dreams rarely realised in the unforgiving world of the straight men, and the sly intricacy... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Richard J
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun rather than classic, immensely enjoyable nonetheless
Elmore Leonard probably understands his audience as well as any author. I guess he continues to write for them because he cannot think of a reason not to; he certainly doesn't need... Read more
Published on 17 May 2012 by Mick Read
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick to the home turf
I totally agree with the guy who said that the first third of the book is somewaht turgid...but then the narrative finds its wings and flies. Read more
Published on 11 May 2012 by martyjay
5.0 out of 5 stars He's still got it - and still keeping us guessing
Djibouti is an interesting development of Elmore Leonard's style. I've read pretty much all his books and all the great ingredients are still here, dialogue, characters, plot... Read more
Published on 18 April 2012 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of the best
The story is set in Djibuti with the central characters being a film producer and her camera man. They are attempting to make a film about the Somali pirates but also come involved... Read more
Published on 18 April 2012 by Marham
3.0 out of 5 stars More twists and turns than a twisty turny thing
Just read the Joe Hill, "amazon exclusive" review of this book, and in its style and substance gives a better sense of what to expect from the book than anything I will write. Read more
Published on 23 Dec 2011 by Aidan J. McQuade
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