The coyote, Antwan, is one seriously cool dude. He runs with his gang, the Howling Diablos, in the Hollywood Hills. He is the main man, the soon-to-be leader of the pack, ‘the smartest and fastest of all the young coyotes’. Normally Coyotes avoid humans and their pets (unless a tasty kitten or delicious dog is on the menu). But Antwan is curious and wanders into the backyard of a movie star (canine variety) in search of leftover sushi and meets Buddy, a German Shepherd, once the lead in many successful films, now retired. Buddy persuades him to stay and try to ‘pass’ as a dog, which works – for a while.
The ensuing adventures are as action-packed, heroic and heart-warming as any of Buddy’s old movies. Antwan is a superb character; fun-loving and witty, with a dark edge, who never lets us forget he is wild and free. Unsurprisingly, from an author whose novels have been the basis of many films, the dialogue is masterful. Each animal character is truly believable from the hip street-smart talk of Antwan to the showbiz spin of Swifty, the dachshund who is Buddy’s ‘agent’.
The book says a lot about outsiders, black, Native American or coyote, looking in on a rich, white society. Fascinating also is the cynical but affectionate slant on the American film industry, typical of some of Leonard’s adult books. In fact, this is a book crying out to be a feature film: Will Smith as the voice of Antwan and Tom Hanks as Buddy? A brilliantly hip combination of ‘Boyz N the Hood’ and Wily Coyote, from an author who has succeeded marvellously in bringing his quirky humour to his first children’s book.