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The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard Paperback – May 8, 2007
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“Even the earliest of his western yarns show Leonard to be a master storyteller.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Leonard has penned some of the best western fiction ever.” (USA Today)
About the Author
Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.
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Top Customer Reviews
If thirty stories sounds like a lot, it is. With that many entries, this collection can't help but get repetitive. How many stagecoach robberies can fit between the covers of one book? Though none of the characters appear in more than one story, the same types continually pop up under new names. The first seven or eight stories lead the reader to believe Leonard may be a one-trick pony. He confines his subject and setting to the Apache country of Arizona. The protagonist is usually a civilian scout hired to guide a party of soldiers, settlers, or criminals through Indian lands. No matter how much the hero warns his employers about the dangers of such a trip, they stubbornly refuse to listen and plod forward regardless, with dire consequences. Though Leonard has a respectful admiration for the Apaches, his portrayal of them is a stereotype nonetheless. He depicts them as stoic killing machines, keenly intelligent and shrewdly calculating, until a drop of alcohol transforms them into murderous lunatics. Though these early stories are strong individually, when read together they inspire a cumulative Apache fatigue.
Thankfully, after the first quarter of the book Leonard broadens his scope and gets more innovative with his plots and characterization. In "The Big Hunt," a young buffalo hunter and his companion, an old skinner, amass a bountiful collection of hides, but when the fruit of their labor is stolen from them by some bullies, the boy must set out after the thieves in search of restitution. "Saint with a Six-Gun" tells the tale of a newly appointed deputy marshal assigned to guard a dangerous gunslinger the week before his execution, a mission which may be more than the green lawman can handle. In "The Rancher's Lady," a widower goes to meet his new bride, whom he has only known through correspondence. Upon arrival, however, a former acquaintance informs him that she used to be employed at a house of ill repute. Despite its lack of shoot-'em-up action, it's one of the strongest selections in the book. There are several longer, novella-length pieces which give Leonard the opportunity to establish an ensemble cast of characters and explore the interactions between them. One such entry is "Trouble at Rindo's Station," in which a disgruntled Indian affairs agent, his crooked ex-boss, and a couple of stagecoach robbing outlaws find themselves trapped by a violent band of Mescaleros. As the collection progresses, Leonard's writing goes from good to better to excellent. By the end of the book he has perfected the art of dialogue, and one begins to see the emergence of the wry, rapid-fire banter that characterizes his Chili Palmer or Raylan Givens books. The last two stories in the book, "The Tonto Woman" and "`Hurrah for Captain Early!'" were included in Leonard's 2001 short story collection Fire in the Hole, and are both excellent examples of his later, mature style.
With very few exceptions, these are all well-crafted, entertaining stories. Even if you're not particularly a fan of the western genre, if you like Leonard's writing, you will enjoy this book. When originally written, these stories were not intended to be read together, and redundancy is an unfortunate by-product of their juxtaposition. The solution: don't read them all at once. To fully appreciate this hearty 30-course chuck wagon dinner, take a break between helpings and savor the flavor.
Leonard is a journeyman craftsman. Since 1951 he has worked his art into these short stories with a fine eye for style and line ands remarkable polish. His dialogue is spot on as are his storylines, breaking many stereotypical modes and getting us to look at his characters in a new, interesting, and entertaining light. My favorite here is Rueben Vega and in the opening paragraph of The Tonto Woman, maybe you'll come to like him as well.
A wonderful collection that shows his early talent and why he has managed to stay in the writing limelight for well over 60 years! Want to be a grat writer too? Then get to know his stories and style.
If this isn't enough to convince you then watch an episode or two of Justified to find how another of his characters are capturing a whole new audience!
He is a story-teller "par exellance".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had chores that I should have been doing but sat and read this book instead. I couldn't put it down!