Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Road Dogs

Elmore Leonard's latest offering centers around two men who became friends doing prison terms in Florida, who reunite in Venice Beach after getting out, to squabble over a woman, who tries to play them both and take the money and row.

Once again we meet Jack Foley fished out of the clink after serving some years of a 30-year sentence. Inside he has met and befriended Cundo Rey, a dimunitive, wealthy, aggressive and sex-crazed Cuban who pulls some of his many strings and gets them both out early.

Cundo's wife Dawn (both Cundo and Dawn are also recurring Leonard characters ). But Dawn is lovely and wily (and maybe a psychic), Cundo is a murderously jealous husband who may well think Jack owes him big-time, and Jack? Well, when you've robbed a hundred-twenty or so banks, is it that easy to go straight?

I marvel at Leonard's dialogue-writing skills. This book is fully 75% dialogue.

“What I don’t understand,” Cundo said, walking the yard with Foley, “I see you as a hip guy, you smart for a fucking bank robber, but two falls, man, one on top the other, you come out you right back in the slam. Tell me how you think about it, a smart guy like you have to look at thirty years.”

Foley said, “You know how a dye pack works? The teller slips you one, it looks like a pack of twenties in a bank strap. It explodes as you leave the bank. Something in the doorframe sets it off. I walk out of a bank in Redondo Beach, the dye pack goes off and I’m sprayed with red paint, people on the street looking at me. Twenty years of going in banks and coming out clean, my eyes open. I catch a dye pack and spend the next seven in federal detention, Lompoc, California. I came out,” Foley said, “and did a bank in Pomona the same day. You fall off a bike you get back on. I think, Good, I’ve still got it. I made over six grand in Pomona. I come back to Florida— my wife Adele divorced me while I’m at Lompoc and she’s having a tough time paying her bills. She’s working for a magician, Emile the Amazing, jumping out of boxes till he fired her and hired a girl Adele said has bigger tits and was younger. I do a bank in
Lake Worth with the intention, give Adele the proceeds to keep her going for a few months. I leave the bank in the Honda I’m using, America’s most popular stolen car at the time. Now I’m waiting to make a left turn on to Dixie Highway and I hear the car behind me going va-room va-room, revving up, the guy can’t wait. He backs up
and cuts around me, his tires screaming, like I’m a retiree waiting to make the turn when it’s safe to pull out.”

“You just rob the fucking bank,” Cundo said.

“And this guy’s showing me what a hotdog he is.”

“So you go after him,” Cundo said.

“I tore after him, came up on the driver’s side and stared at him.”

“Gave him the killer look,” Cundo said.

“That’s right, and he gives me the finger. I cranked the wheel and sideswiped him, stripped his chrome and ran him off the road.”

“I would’ve shot the fucker,” Cundo said.

“What happened, I tore up both tires on the side I swiped him. By the time I got the car pulled over, a deputy’s coming up behind me with lights flashing.”

“Tha’s called road rage,” Cundo said. “I’m surprise, a cool guy like you losing it. How you think it happen?”

“I wasn’t paying attention. I let myself catch a dye pack in Redondo Beach, something I swore would never happen. The next one, seven years later, you’re right, I lost it. You know why? Because a guy with a big engine wearing shades, the top down, no idea I’d just robbed a bank, made me feel like a wimp. And that,” Foley
said, “is some serious shit to consider.”

“Man, you got the balls to bust out of prison, you don’t have to prove nothing.”

“Out for a week and back inside.”

“What could you do? The girl shot you, the chick marshal. You don’t tell me about her.”

Karen Sisco. Foley kept her to himself. She gave him moments to think about and look at over and over for a time, a few months now, but there weren’t enough moments to last thirty years.

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