Saturday, October 30, 2010

I just finished Djibouti by Elmore Leonard.

Going further afield than Leonard normally does, Djibouti is set in the Horn of Africa area, and involves filmmakers, vigilantes and terrorists with his usual tough guy bravado throughout.

It also has him doing something else unusual, playing with the narrative structure.  Part of the novel is told in pseudo-flashback form, as the filmmakers review some of their footage and Leonard weaves in the events that were going on around the time the footage was taken.  This gimmick doesn't work very well, just creating confusion about where/when the narrative is, and Leonard abandons it after a few chapters.

Leonard's usual distinctive dialogue also doesn't work as well here.  Usually Leonard's dialogue, like that of David Mamet, feels real even though it isn't realistic at all.  In the beginning of this book, it doesn't feel real at all.

By the end, Leonard is more in his comfort zone, as various tough guys confront each other, and the novel is much stronger and more interesting, but the trip to get there isn't very interesting.

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