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by Elmore Leonard

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New York Times bestselling author Elmore Leonard brings his trademark wit and inimitable style to this twisting, gripping—and sometimes playful—tale of modern-day piracy

Dara Barr, documentary filmmaker, is at the top of her game. Looking for a bigger challenge, Dara and her right-hand-man, Xavier LeBo, head to

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New York Times bestselling author Elmore Leonard brings his trademark wit and inimitable style to this twisting, gripping—and sometimes playful—tale of modern-day piracy

Dara Barr, documentary filmmaker, is at the top of her game. Looking for a bigger challenge, Dara and her right-hand-man, Xavier LeBo, head to Djibouti to film modern-day pirates hijacking merchant ships.

They learn soon enough that almost no one in the Middle East is who he seems to be. The most successful pirate, driving his Mercedes around Djibouti, appears to be a good guy, but his pal, a cultured Saudi diplomat, has dubious connections. Billy Wynn, a Texas billionaire, plays mysterious roles as the mood strikes him. And there's Jama Raisuli, a black al Qaeda terrorist from Miami, who's vowed to blow up something big. What Dara and Xavier have to decide, besides the best way to stay alive: Should they shoot the action as a documentary or turn it into a Hollywood feature film?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly Audio
In Leonard's new novel, Oscar-winning documentarian Dara Barr and her 73-year-old assistant, Xavier LeBo, travel to the Horn of Africa to film Somali pirates. They get exciting footage, but Leonard, almost perversely, provides much of the action as exposition, with the filmmakers safe and sound in hotels or on yachts, discussing their adventures over champagne. This is not good news for thriller lovers, since thrills are in short supply. But it's tremendous fun for those who can't get enough of the author's snappy patter. For Tim Cain, it's a chance to demonstrate his ability to deal with pages of witty dialogue, and he shines, demonstrating quick vocal shifts, wide-ranging accents, and well-thought-out pacing. The result is a smoothly efficient, entertaining drawing room comedy in which not even terrorism is taken too seriously. A Morrow hardcover. (Nov.)
Janet Maslin
…a book without a powerhouse plot but with plenty of the old familiar crackle…
—The New York Times
Anna Mundow
In Djibouti, Leonard slyly shows us what the old man can still do.
—The Washington Post
David Kamp
…an elaborately interlaced web of cons, crosses, goofs and intrigues; Djibouti, for all its travelogue aspects and newsy urgency, is not such a departure from the Leonard template after all. Everyone's an operator, the overall atmosphere is louche verging on alcoholic…and the principals gab, gab, gab in that meta-conscious, pop-savvy way to which Quentin Tarantino owes such a debt…It takes some hanging in there, but Djibouti winds up being a first-rate Leonard offering…
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Leonard (Road Dogs) goes exotic with this eventually killer story of contemporary piracy set on the horn of Africa. Dara Barr, a documentary filmmaker newly arrived in Djibouti to make a film about pirates as a follow-up to her Oscar-winning Katrina documentary, and Dara's savvy friend and fixer, Xavier, stumble into a thicket of intrigue before the two are on the open water. Rogues they encounter include a "whirlwind Texas entrepreneur" sailing around the world; a crooked diplomat in league with a charismatic pirate, both eyeing a payday; and a pair of kidnapped al-Qaeda operatives, one an American citizen with a bounty on his head. Everyone has an angle or two, and once the plots stumble through an awkward first third, Leonard's hallmark breakneck pacing, crackling dialogue, and scalpel-sharp prose kick in. Seasoned Leonard readers will see some grays poking through--this at times reads like a quite good imitation of an Elmore Leonard novel--but it still beats the pants off of most of the competition. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In a major departure from his crime novels set in Detroit, Miami, and Los Angeles, octogenarian Grand Master Leonard ( here tackles East Africa. Documentary filmmaker Dara Barr travels to Djibouti to make a film about modern-day pirates operating out of Somalia. Cognizant of the dangers involved, she nonetheless stumbles into a deadly plot. As always with Leonard, there are colorful characters—e.g., an elderly New Orleans seaman, a Texas billionaire, and an American al Qaeda terrorist—though Barr herself remains rather vague. More adept at style and mood than plot, Leonard takes too long to get things going. The slack pace, however, is energized by the narration of Tim Cain (I, Alex Cross), who employs a plethora of authentic-sounding multicultural accents. Recommended for Leonard aficionados and those looking for unusual treatments of terrorism. [Leonard "really cooks with gas here," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Morrow hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 9/16/10.—Ed.]—Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

Leonard's company of stock character types—the veteran law enforcer, the savvy professional woman, the seen-it-all sidekick, the horny billionaire—are so cool that they can confront international terrorism without batting an eyelash.

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Dara Barr wants to make a new film about Somali pirates. Along with her grizzled factotum Xavier LeBo, she rents a boat and cruises the Horn of Africa looking for seafarers on every side of the law. While she's chatting them up and filming them, the Gold Dust Twins—Ari Ahmed Sheikh Bakar, aka Harry, and American-educated pirate Idris Mohammed—are scouring the area for terrorists, and billionaire Billy Wynn is in the neighborhood test-driving his latest girlfriend to see if Helene is up to the rigors of a topless sea voyage. The cast spends quite a while checking each other out—an extended period that will delight fans of Leonard (Road Dogs, 2009, etc.) and drive everyone else crazy—because they don't know that the catalyst of all the action has yet to make an appearance. He's Jama Raisuli, an American Muslim who together with noted al-Qaeda operative Qasim al Salah is removed from the tanker Aphrodite just after they succeeded in hiding enough phone-activated explosives aboard to blow the ship and its load of natural gas to kingdom come. When Jama escapes from his laughably incompetent Somali jailers, the countdown to Armageddon begins. Jama is determined to wreak enough havoc to make the strategic port of Djibouti a distant memory; Billy, convinced that the Aphrodite is doomed, is bent on destroying it himself well out of the port's range; Dara, realizing that Jama is executing everyone who knows that he was born James Russell, keeps filming while she awaits his inevitable approach; and Helene continues to suck up the salt air so that Billy won't have any excuse to put her ashore and move on to the next lovely spousal candidate.

Not your father's anti-terrorism yarn. Leonard's characters make James Bond look fidgety.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x 0.80(d)


Meet the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote forty-five novels and nearly as many western and crime short stories across his highly successful career that spanned more than six decades. Some of his bestsellers include Road Dogs, Up in Honey’s Room, The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, and the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Fire in the Hole. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, which became Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie BrownJustified, the hit series from FX, is based on Leonard’s character Raylan Givens, who appears in Riding the Rap, Pronto, Raylan and the short story “Fire in the Hole”. He was a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA, and the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America. He was known to many as the ‘Dickens of Detroit’ and was a long-time resident of the Detroit area.

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Brief Biography

Bloomfield Village, Michigan
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1925
Place of Birth:
New Orleans, Louisiana
B.Ph., University of Detroit, 1950

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Djibouti 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Following their award winning Katrina film, documenter Dara Barr and her top assistant septuagenarian Xavier LeBo travel to Djibouti on their next project; filming the pirates looting international vessels in the Indian Ocean off The Horn of Africa. Their greeting upon arrival at the city located on the southern point of the Red Sea is unfriendly as several foreigners claim CEO status over the piracy and want no films. They meet a horde of outcasts who belong in a movie like Casablanca. There is the diplomat partnering with a charming popular pirate; both demand a kickback or else. Terrorists like al-Qaeda in Miami Jama provide the filmmakers with a choice between cash and bombings. Finally they encounter eccentric Billy the Texan and his maybe fiancée Helene sailing the world, but he wants to see the pirates in action on the High Seas. All this occurs even before the pair sail on the Indian Ocean to film the piracy. This exciting trademark Elmore Leonard thriller takes time to gel, but once it does, Djibuti is the usual super skewering of everyone; especially know it all Westerners who reject being a major part of the cause while feeling outraged when the cash crop is piracy. Readers except the xenophobic who omit the latter part of Carl Schurz's famous full quote "my country right ." will appreciate Mr. Leonard's entertaining take no prisoners take on the Somalia pirates. Harriet Klausner
Robinhoe More than 1 year ago
Not exactly vintage Leonard, and takes a while to get the players straight, but once this book settles into its groove, you can't put it down! Very prescient in a lot of ways about how crime & terrorism intersect. Great language and characters. Loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an airplane book with class and well worth the investment. In fact I was so intrigued I finished it before I got on the plane. A departure from Leonard's usual milieu but he seems to do a good job capturing the atmosphere and taking his traditional types of characters to it. On an e-reader a little hard to follow (to flip back and figure out who is who), but it has nice twists and holds attention to the end.
tropicalwoman More than 1 year ago
Easy to read near the pool between dipping in the water or for that airplance ride. Easy to pick up where you left off and has a surprise ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was dissapointing. It took too long to get to the point.
StaciNJ More than 1 year ago
Really, this guy is great. He's 85 and still writes better than 95% of the writers out there a third his age. Leonard's books are odd in a way. People meander through them and things happen not because some master plan has been hatched, but because things just happen. Djibouti is about the Somali pirates, and reading it was an education in that mess. It's also about a woman filming a documentary and a terrorist. They all swirl together and things happen and it's interesting and exciting, but it's never epic in scale. It feels like real life playing out. I hope Leonard is still publishing at 100.
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