Thank God Elmore Leonard is still kicking and writing. With each new book of his that gets published, I always think that it’s going to be his last. This author, however, keeps surprising me, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. You see, Leonard has been writing novels since the late ’50s, and a lot of them have been best-sellers, not to mention great films ("Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight"). In fact, his newest book, "Road Dogs," is the sequel to "Out of Sight" and brings back the character of Jack Foley in full form with all of his bravado, sarcastic wit, charm, and his instinctual skills for survival.
Though not quite to the level of greatness that "Out of Sight" was (after all, this novel had the love affair between Jack and U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco, aka Jennifer Lopez in the film), "Road Dogs" is still an extremely entertaining read from the first page to the last. Also, if you’ve seen George Clooney as Jack Foley in the film version of "Out of Sight," then you’re going to see Clooney in your mind’s eye through the entire new book, which certainly adds to the pleasure of reading it.
At the beginning of "Road Dogs," Foley is back in Glades Correctional, facing a possible 30-year sentence for his escape from the facility and for the deaths of several people in Detroit, where he eventually was shot by his lover and hunter, Karen Sisco. His new buddy at Glades is Cuando Rey, who’s also in jail for murder. Though an unlikely pair, they hit it off as fellow inmates and Jack ends up covering Cuando’s back whenever there’s trouble. Cuando, being a millionaire from his life of crime and from his real estate investments in California, hires the most talented and beautiful lawyer that money can buy, Megan Norris, to represent both him and Foley. The lawyer, with the help of Karen Sisco’s somewhat untruthful testimony, gets Jack time served,and then gets Cuando off due to a lack of physical evidence.
Getting out of jail a few weeks earlier than his friend, Jack heads to Venice, Calif., to stay in one of Cuando’s multimillion dollar homes and to keep an eye on his common-law wife, Dawn Navarro, who just happens to be lovely and sexy and a professional psychic. Dawn is also a scam artist who recognizes a good thing when she sees it. For eight years, she’s been waiting patiently for Cuando to get out of jail, not because she loves him, but rather because she wants a sizable chunk of his money. All of it would be better, but Dawn is willing to settle for a few million dollars for time served as the wife of a criminal. When Jack Foley arrives, she quickly sees the possibility of having a partner to help her with her plans, if he’s willing to go the distance by killing Cuando. Dawn is smart enough to make the offer very enticing to Jack by giving him her body and promising a large cut of the money. This is something Jack has to think really hard about because he still owes Cuando $30,000 in lawyer’s fees, plus there’s Lou Adams, an FBI agent who wants to put Jack back in jail for robbing so many banks and thus, making himself into a legend as the man who nailed the greatest bank robber in history. Lou’s taken a month off from work and follows Jack to California, knowing that he will cross the line sooner or later. Poor Jack is going to have his hands full just trying to stay one step ahead of everybody in the game and not getting killed in the shuffle, or ending up back in jail for the rest of his life.
"Road Dogs" is Leonard at his best. Though just a notch below "Out of Sight" in entertainment value, this novel proves that Leonard is still the greatest thriller writer living today. Few authors can even come close to the skills he has in creating characters that the reader can visualize. And, when it comes to dialogue, nobody does it better than this icon of the publishing industry in creating such believable yet witty lines for his characters to speak. The words are never forced, but rather flow with a smoothness that rings true to the ear. His books also come alive in ways that enable readers to live inside the stories with the characters for a few hours, and then to come away from it with a totally satisfied experience that stays with them for days to come.
Leonard is a true master of his craft, and he’s still delivering the goods after 50 years of writing. "Road Dogs" is a winner in every sense of the word and a novel that will get you hooked on one of the best authors America has ever produced. He’s now working on another novel, and I’m hoping to read it before either of us dies.