Elmore Leonard’s Westerns


The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard  is a small jewel, like a remembered line of dialogue from one of Leonard’s stories. Now this reader chooses his Western’s carefully being more a Mark Twain fan than Louis Lamour. Give me the edginess and contradictions of the grasping opportunism that was Western expansion. And that is at the nub of Three Ten to Yuma in which a young Sheriff Scallen must get a dangerous gang member, Jim Kidd, onto the Three Ten train to the Arizona prison at Yuma.

The dialog between Kidd and Deputy Scullen is the master Leonard touch. Casual talk between sheriff and prisoner unveils the uneven hand dealt the Deputy who upholds Western Justice in the face of a callous Brinks man and a gang more than willing to do in the deputy for $150 or less. Taut tight storytelling.

In contrast, Saint with a Six-Gun has transient Bobby Valdez pulling a fast one on Barney Fife wannabe Lyall Quinlan. It looks like Quinlan is a yokel lamb being readied for slaughter with some classic line of arguments by a repentant Valdez.Again surprising and explosive denouement.

Want to  know where the Leonardian dialoque and  narratives got refined to the point of Get Shorty and Swag excellence, see and read the charcters and plotting of these two Westerns. And if you get the audiobook, enjoy an equally savvy reading by Henry Rollins.