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Leonard is as cool and incisive as ever
on 21 February 2010
What is there left to say about Elmore Leonard? A man who was born in New Orleans in 1925, started out writing westerns in the 1950s, and practically invented the gritty crime story centred on the criminals and not the cops has done it all. Except he is still capable of coming up with the goods. This time, he picks up three characters from other stories and tosses them together.
The last time most people saw Jack Foley, bank robber, he looked like George Clooney and was romancing Jennifer Lopez in the film version of Our of Sight. He was on his way back to jail to serve out his thirty years sentence. Now, on his way back he is in a van with Cundo Rey, the Cuban gangster from LaBrava. The two become `road dogs' - convicts who look after each others backs. In return for his help, Cundo funds Foley's appeal against his conviction using his own clever lawyer, Megan Norris. Foley's sentence is reduced from thirty years to thirty months, and he is soon out. Much to the chagrin of Federal agent Lou Adams, who vows to tail Foley until he inevitably breaks the law again.
Cundo asks Foley, on his release, to go see his wife Dawn Navarro (a psychic from Leonard's novel Riding the Rap). Foley and Navvaro are then loving the high life in two mansions belonging to Rey in Venice Beach. The cast of characters grows to include Rey's erstwhile partner Little Jimmy, Tico, a gangbanger who Adams hires to spy on Dawn and Foley, and Danny, a starlet who Dawn and Foley attempt to part from a lot of money. Each of the characters is driven by greed or other low motives - even Cundo Rey's skinhead bodyguard suggests he will `pop' his boss for money, if Foley can afford it. Dawn, who sleeps with Foley, Cundo and Tico, only wants Foley's assistance in separating Cundo from his fortune. Even the straight guy Adams seems more concerned with accumulating information on Foley for the book about him he plans to write.
Leonard is as cool and incisive as ever, sticking religiously to his own advice to writers - `try to leave out the parts the readers tend to skip.' He is strong on witty dialogue, and tough realism. His abiding rule is `if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it'. It has stood him in good stead, and works once again with this, his latest novel.