Pagan Babies

Elmore Leonard, Author, Steve Buscemi, Performed by, Elmore Leonard, Read by Random House Audio $25.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-52751-3
Buscemi offers a standard, dry reading of Leonard's sly new tale, which is appropriate (though his attempt at producing African accents is unconvincing) for the opening scene: Rwanda after its rabid interethnic violence. Unordained priest ""Father"" Terry Dunn ministers to the local congregants (47 of whom were slashed to death) and shacks up with his housekeeper until he decides to take matters of justice into his own hands. Having arrived in Africa on the lam from a criminal charge in the U.S., Terry returns home to Detroit under similar circumstances. But Buscemi's tone never becomes as lithe as Leonard's tale does in Detroit; his best effort at atmosphere is the smart-alecky tone he gives to Terry's confederate Debbie Dewey, an aspiring stand-up comic just released from prison for having tried to run over the ex-boyfriend who scammed her out of thousands of dollars. Debbie intends to scam him back and joins up with Terry, who has his own shady operation. Debbie's ex fronts for the mob and is in cahoots with a witless hit man called Mutt, who in turn allies himself with an ex-smuggling partner of Terry's. Everyone tries to protect his or her own interest in the rapidly circulating money. One can't help feeling that the abridgement has cut out some vital material before Terry's final return to Rwanda. All in all, though, this is a hugely entertaining story by Leonard--albeit one conveyed only moderately well by Buscemi. Simultaneous release with the Dell hardcover (Forecasts, July 3). (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Compact Disc - 978-0-553-71228-5
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