By JANET MASLIN writing in The New York Times, Published: May 10, 2009
Elmore Leonard’s “Road Dogs” starts with a trip to prison. Why not? No self-respecting Leonard character avoids the occasional legal infraction, and this new book resurrects a few repeat offenders.
By Elmore Leonard
262 pages. William Morrow. $26.99.
Ordinarily the writer who turns to his own pages for inspiration risks looking lazy. But Mr. Leonard’s crime stories are packed with players who deserve curtain calls. And there’s nothing remotely wheezy about his way of throwing together Foley, Cundo and Dawn (as they’re known in “Road Dogs”). Foley has the brains, Cundo the machismo and Dawn the shamelessness to make this one of Mr. Leonard’s most enjoyably sneaky stories.
“We road dogs, man, we do for each other no matter what,” Cundo tells Foley. In other words, they’re buddies. Best friends. Blood brothers. Well, fine: if Cundo wants to see it that way, the bank-robbing Foley isn’t going to argue with him. Cundo, who has put together a small real-estate empire in Venice, Calif., during his eight years of incarceration, pays for the “smartest chick lawyer,” who helps get Foley out of jail.
Cundo wants only one favor in return. He wants Foley to keep an eye on Dawn, his sort-of wife, a psychic who got into a common-law marriage with Cundo for reasons of mutual exploitation. She liked the houses in Venice and saw Cundo as a wealthy mogul. He thought a fortuneteller could help him find other people’s fortunes. And as psychics go, Dawn is a hot specimen. A man won’t believe she can read minds “till I tell him to quit trying to picture me naked,” she says.
Once Foley is freed and goes to live in one of Cundo’s houses (or “homes,” as Cundo always calls them), picturing Dawn naked is really easy. That’s because there’s a great big nude portrait of her that she’s hung next to the bed. It was painted by Little Jimmy, whom Cundo calls “the Monk” on the assumption that Jimmy would never lay a hand on Dawn, let alone paint her. Cundo is adorably deluded enough to believe that Dawn has been chaste while he has been behind bars.