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Road Dogs

Once again Elmore Leonard revs the plot, dials up the banter, and produces a novel you’ve got to stay up all night to finish.

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Elmore Leonard made George Clooney a movie star. And he’s written a few good books along the way, too. Clooney, of course, flopped as Batman and seemed to be striking out in his bid to transform himself from a famous TV E.R. doc into a box-office attraction.

What set him on the path to becoming Danny Ocean and countless other lovable rogues was his star turn as Jack Foley in 1998’s “Out of Sight,” an adaptation of one of Leonard’s numerous breezy, brilliant page turners.

Clooney’s iconic grinning grifter returns in Leonard’s latest book, Road Dogs, paired with two other revived characters: Cundo Rey (from “LaBrava”) and Dawn Navarro (“Riding the Rap”). And you can see the movie playing out even as you turn the pages. In this case, that’s a good thing.

We last saw Foley  being shot in the leg by a beautiful federal marshal (and romantic interest), Karen Sisco. As “Road Dogs” begins, Foley is on his way back to Glades Correctional in a police van, riding with Rey. They’re both thinking about women: Karen Sisco in Foley’s case, Dawn Navarro in Rey’s.

It’s a cliché for reviewers to cite Leonard’s crisp dialogue, but impossible to avoid. “Road Dogs” offers an abundance of snappy verbal exchanges, such as the brief introduction between Foley and a bodyguard named Zorro. “Where’s your sword?” Foley  asks.

“I’m a different Zorro,” comes the reply, followed by a Foley  deadpan: “Is that right?”

As Leonard once put it, he goes easy on what Steinbeck referred to as the “hooptedoodle.” Weather, long-winded descriptions, scene-setting are all superfluous. Instead, the story glides along and, before you know it, it’s way past your bedtime but Jack Foley is too charming to shut off the lights just now.

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