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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.
Ian Morson
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Jack Foley, the hero of "Out of Sight" and in prison for the next 30 years, becomes friends with a powerful Cuban called Cundo Rey who assigns him a hotshot attorney, getting him out of the jailhouse inno time. Cundo asks Foley to watch over his expensive houses in Venice Beach, California, and keep an eye on his girl's fidelity, a psychic called Dawn Navarro, who makes a living playing up her "powers" to wealthy (and gullible) Hollywood wives. But with Cundo's upcoming release from prison, Dawn has other plans in mind rather than a reunion with her partner. A plan that involves her and Cundo's millions, alone together...

Elmore Leonard writes a pretty decent crime thriller with one of his best loved characters back in the saddle. The book, despite not having much in the way of action until the final 50 pages or so, still manages to maintain interest mostly because of the superb dialogue. A conversation between two people walking in a prison yard would be mundane in the hands of a lesser writer but with Leonard the pages crackle with life.

And that's what mostly saves this book and makes it worth reading: the snappy back and forths between the characters as they strive for their goals. Foley - to get out alive; Navarro - to take everything and escape; the others - well, just surviving would do but with Leonard you never know until the end what everyone's really up to.

I thought the book was a bit static though with most of the novel taking place between two expensive houses in Venice Beach. I would've preferred if Leonard had gone outside of this as it felt very much like a play with its limited settings.

"Road Dogs" is a pretty great novel where Leonard shows how much he can do with so little and bringing real characters to life with ease. The ending is especially masterful, done with two guns, whiskey, and some genius dialogue. Great fun to read for all fans of fiction and Elmore Leonard.
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on 30 January 2010
Back to almost his best,good sequel to 'Out of sight'. Probably better than 99% of the rest and maybe one of his best for a long time.
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on 3 May 2010
Back on form with this.
Jack Foley is sprung, with strings attached, by a prison mate and tries to navigate the waters of low life LA chicanery, pursuing his "what then" goals.
Great stuff, Elmore.
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VINE VOICEon 10 December 2009
I am an avid follower of Elmore Leonard but recent books have been disappointing. Gone are the truely grim, nasty Hispanics characters. The "Hot Kid" stories are insipid. "Road Dogs" is a return (almost) to the best. Sharp witty dialogue and some real nasties. It is not quite one of the best but well worth reading.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 September 2013
Elmore Leonard's (1925 -- August 20, 2013) novel "Road Dogs" (2009) was a late work, written when the author was in his 80s. The novel has a valedictory touch as Leonard brings back several characters who appeared separately in earlier novels. The book can be read on its own by readers, including myself, unfamiliar with the earlier novels.

The novel is set in a Florida prison and in an expensive residential community in Venice, California. The two primary male characters are convicts. Jack Foley, who has spent his life robbing banks, faces a 30 year prison sentence and the diminutive Cundo Rey,50, is a wealthy Cuban immigrant involved in many illicit activities in California who has served five years of a seven year sentence for second degree murder. Foley and Rey become apparent fast friends or "Road Dogs" in the tough prison world. Rey uses his great wealth to hire a gifted woman attorney who successfully appeals Foley's conviction and secures a marked reduction in his jail time. The two men thus are released from prison within weeks of one another. At Rey's prompting, Foley heads to California to prepare for Rey's release. He meets Rey's wife, Dawn Navarro, a professional and grossly fraudulent and exploitative psychic. During his prison term, Rey has been highly jealous of Dawn. He reminds her at every opportunity to act the part of a "saint" during his long absence.

The book is heavily plotted with many twists, turns, and secondary characters. The themes of the book include the nature and possibility of friendship and trust, the ability or lack of it of people to change strongly entrenched character traits, trust and love between men and women, and betrayal. Each of the three main characters seem to work against one another and to be out for the main chance.

The book reads quickly with Leonard's esteemed skill in snappy, realistic dialogue. With all the robbery, murder, sex, and extortion shown in the book, it has in places a surprisingly light touch. The book frequently has more of the feel of humor and irony as opposed to a tough-minded crime thriller. Elmore seems somehow to be telling his story and reflectively standing outside it.

The characters and themes are well-developed and the writing is sharp. I thought the story line was brittle and convoluted. The humor and detachment Leonard brings to the story are more effective than the actions he describes. "Road Dogs" is a readable, interesting novel but probably most readers will find it not one of Leonard's best.

Robin Friedman
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The hand of the master is sure and steady in this dark romp of a comedic crime story. Elmore Leonard has brought back the suave Guinness record-breaking bank robber, Jack Foley, and set him at play in the L.A. beach town of Venice.

Foley has been befriended by fellow inmate, Cundo Rey, who finances the successful appeal of Foley's long sentence for bank heists and sends him off to keep an eye on his exotic professional psychic wife, Dawn Navarro, until he, Rey, can join them both anon. Rey went to prison with millions stashed in California real estate and has big plans to enjoy and expand his fortune once out of the big house. Foley may figure in those plans.

Rey's wife, Dawn, has been waiting for him for eight years and has plenty of plans of her own. Larceny, infidelity, fraud, and mayhem are just a few of Dawn's preoccupations. The good-looking and notorious Foley arrives and she decides he may the perfect partner for some of the crooked escapades she has on the drawing board.

No need to get into the plot here. The story line is smart, opaque and completely engaging. Even better are the characters that author Leonard has constructed in this novel and the interplay--often completely off the wall--that transpires between them. These folks are all completely original and intriguing; most of them bent in some way; and all effective servants of the dark and hilarious story that Leonard has laid out.

This is a terrific yarn--mystery or whatever--with no obvious ending until the last page and consistently challenging to the reader. Highly recommended.
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on 6 February 2012
Elmore Leonard fires up another hugely enjoyable crime caper that sees most of the major players planning to double or triple cross one another within about two paragraphs of them being introduced. This novel "stars" Jack Foley (who George Clooney played in the movie version of "Out of Sight") involved in plot that snakes around itself and is much tighter than the average bowline knot. Barely a word is wasted as the story unfolds, although I have to say that sometimes the dialogue is just too sparse and therefore comes across as almost forced. But, this is Elmore Leonard, and as such he is beyond criticism from laymen like me!
I found it hard NOT to picture Clooney in this role and wondered if we'll see it on film? Leonard wonders too, I think, as he makes a sly comment in the story about screenwriters and producers mangling a novel "When the Women Come out to Dance" - in the real world one of his, of course. You get the feeling though that Leonard couldn't care less about whether this book makes it to the screen or not. He writes for his own pleasure, I think, and the fact that so many of us enjoy the output too is just a bonus. He's there to tell a story, in an American tradition that he himself has shaped. For those of us familiar with that shape, there's loads here to recognise and savour, from the ultra-cool swagger of all the main players to the wry humour and point blank set pieces that slot so neatly into place. Elmore Leonard, seriously, where would American crime writing be without him?
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on 3 May 2014
First-rate Leonard, deft American crime writing at its best featuring the usual gallery of quirky characters including a second appearance by Cuban criminal Cundo Rey. But watch out for that treacherous sexy wife of his!
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on 28 July 2014
I have read every book by Elmore Leonard and there isn't one I wouldn't recommend. This is probably the last book he wrote and it was good to see a few characters from earlier books making an appearance. His writing is always so economical, he can describe something or someone in a line where others would use a paragraph. Worth checking out his son Peter, very enjoyable also.
I will miss Elmore though.
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