x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Djibouti: East meets western

"A middle east western on water", Elmore Leonard's latest novel is a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of Somali pirates pursued by a documentary filmmaker.

Djibouti.
Djibouti.

"Dutch" still has it - even far removed from his usual Detroit-Miami-New Orleans-Hollywood axis. "Dutch", of course, is the nickname of the 85-year-old US crime novelist Elmore Leonard, and his craft - gritty realism, crackling dialogue and double and triple crosses - remains high in Djibouti. Subtitled "A middle east western on water", the novel is a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of Somali pirates pursued by a documentary filmmaker.

No rogues, low-lifes, sharpies and frauds are drawn better than Leonard's. In Djibouti the wisecracking characters include the sassy filmmaker Dana Barr; her laconic sidekick, Xavier, a 6-foot-6, 72-year-old African-American; an Oxford-educated sheikh with a taste for the high life; a billionaire Texan playboy; and an American al Qaeda convert intent on blowing up something big.

Will the movie get made? Will the terrorist detonate the LNG tanker? Everyone's scamming, and you're compelled to turn the pages to find out as the irresistible multiple narratives coalesce. "Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy," Martin Amis told Leonard in 1998. It still does.