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The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard Paperback – May 8, 2007
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“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.
Top Customer Reviews
These stories were written during years of the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s for magazines of that period, prior to Elmore Leonard switching to a modern mode of crime writing for books.
Anyone familiar with HOMBRE, VALDEZ IS COMING, or THE TALL T will not be surprised with his talent for writing westerns. He has said he always liked western movies, and his first fledgling attempts at writing were therefore westerns. Growing up in that era, I clearly recall that westerns were almost at the forefront of both publishing and movie screen. Many of us growing up in those days of Hoppy & Roy & Gene & Lone Ranger comics, post-WWII paperbacks, and the local "bijou" theaters, remain western fans to this very day. On a personal note, I probably have well over one thousand paperback westerns in my library, collected over the years, and yes, Mr. Leonard's are all there.
So when this book came out I bought it immediately. The manner in which the publisher issued the book is above normal: inside the front and back covers are many of the magazine covers in color within which the stories appeared; also, there is a nifty map showing many sites in Arizona Territory helping one locate the area of individual stories.
This was an ambitious undertaking from both author and publisher, and one of love from the author I'm sure. If you have interest in Elmore Leonard, or the American fictional west, or both, you will not want to be without this volume.
There are a number of other excellent stories here. Leonard does not use the normal stereotypes seen in so many western television shows and movies. "Tonto Woman" tells the story of a woman who has been rescued from captivity only to be exiled by society. "Hurrah for Captain Early" gives us a story rarely heard. How black soldiers saved Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at San Juan hill.
These are all good stories. This was my first Leonard book and I enjoyed re-reading it as much as
I enjoyed reading it the first time.
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.