May 28, 2011

The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

And it is complete, let me tell you.  There are 31 stories in here and not al of them are that short.  I didn't realize it went to well over 500 pages when I chose it for this challenge.

But I'm happy I read it.  Not only was it fun to try a genre I'd really only engaged with when it comes to movies, I got to go back to early works of a favorite writer and see how he started off.

They're good but I don't think I would have taken them straight through if it hadn't have been for the challenge.  I would have read one or two at a time spread out, which is how I usually read short story collections.  Straight through the main characters tend to blur together.

But it's definitely Leonard.  Tough, lean and fun.  Actually, they weren't that fun, especially at first.  I've come to expect a certain dark, wry and dry humor from Leonard and that didn't start showing itself until about halfway though (about when you get to the original 3:10 to Yuma).  That's about when he starts experimenting with his now trademark dialog.  Before that point, there's more description and writerly-writing than you see in Leonard today.  of course he was probably writing for a penny a word or something and like a lot of magazine pulp writing, tended to be more verbose.

They're about what you'd expect with Elmore Leonard.  Usually one smart guy leading a bunch of less-smart guys and trying to stay alive while they go up against some baddies.  Sometimes the smart guy is a ranger or tracker, sometimes an Apache.  Sometimes the Apache is the bad guy, sometimes it's a greedy treasure hunter.  Either way, the Apache usually wins or is only headed off because of the smarts of the main character who is the only one who really understands the Apaches and isn't a racist dummy who about gets the rest of them killed.

One thing that struck me, other than the elegant way he dealt with the racism, was the immediacy.  What I mean is, sitting here at my laptop I have plans for the day, for the weekend, for the summer and beyond.  Most of the characters in these stories live much leaner and closer to the earth.  They're living for right now and don't plan on much except the end of the ride or the hunt or whatever.  Lives take twists and turns that happen so quick and end just as fast.  Every story definitely takes place in the here and now.  I wonder if that's typical of the genre?

Of course, I couldn't help seeing most of these in my mind as grainy black and white  films usually starring Glen Ford.  Which was awesome.

Most of them weren't too much of a stretch from what Leonard does now.  Instead of drug dealers or bank heists there are stagecoach robbers and gold digging treasure hunters.  It's all good.

Now that I'm finished with this challenge I'm going to go enjoy my summer.  School is out, man.  I plan on reading a ton including lots of stuff from the TBR pile along with book club books.

I have no clue how much blogging I'll do.  Right now I just want to kick back and enjoy.

Thanks for the challenge, C.B.

The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard