Ron Rosenbaum

Road Dogs: Elmore Leonard's Still Got It and It's Getting Better

It’s really pretty amazing after 40 or so novels the guy still writes such sharply honed intelligent sentences and such baroquely coplex (not just complicated) plots that remind me of no one else but…Jane Austen.

I’m serious: he has a loving comic microscopic interest in the subtle nuances of relationships and the norms of behavior and their potential violations as Jane at her best. This new one puts you in the midst of a intricate triangulat relationship between two prison “road dogs” (although they define the phrase in subtly different ways), one a bank robber (the return of the George Clooney character from Out of Sight, the other a Cuban killer who got rich in Venice, California real estate, and the third a vamp of Venice who seeems to have psychic powers.

Now usually I can’t stand novels with recurring characters, and I rarely read mysteries with recurring characters unless they’re written by Kerr or LeCarre, which are not really mysteries, though Leonard’s aren’t either, are they? I see “A Hercule Poirot Novel” type line on a cover in a bookstore (i.e. another in a series with the same quirky detective and I’m outta there. I can’t stand quirky detectives. It ususally means everything else in it is going to be a quirky bore.

But Leonard can do it, bring a character back, because the guy is so smart about reltionships particularly among men, the poisonous jealousy and intimacy of macho and male bonding–he does for men what Jane Austen does for women.

Sometimes it misfires. But not here. I’m only half way through and loving Road Dogs so much, it’s so refreshing to find something I know I’ll finish that I want to tell you about it now. Maybe I’ll have more to say later. It’s just out in hardcover, but thirty budks dosesn’ buy you much more in the way of pleasure. In any form.