Elmore Leonard’s THE COMPLETE WESTERN STORIES

9780061242922Elmore Leonard is known for his fantastic crime novels and his cool, crisp dialogue but he started out writing westerns way back in the 1950s. This collections showcases his western short stories and his immense talent as a writer.

I think it is easy to pass Elmore Leonard off as a writer of crime novels that have been turned into countless films and television adaptations but you would only do that at your own peril. Yes Elmore Leonard has become known for a few of his own tropes; brilliant dialogue, idiotic crooks, plots involving schemes that unravel and precise prose but these tropes fit the crime genre perfectly. Reading Leonard in another genre shows a completely different side to his writing and I think in many ways it is even better.

The Western genre is of course the precursor to the modern American crime novel. The lines between right and wrong are blurred by lawlessness and greed but there are still heroes and villains, both of which are not easily decipherable which makes for very interesting characters. The landscape has more significance and there is a minefield of politics to explore; post-Civil War, race, slavery, Native Americans, immigration, government, Mexico. Issues still alive and kicking today.

In many ways Elmore Leonard’s crime novels are more Westerns than mysteries. His favourite hero/protagonist is often a US Marshall and that is directly born from his western stories. What I found most interesting about Leonard’s western writing was that he explored more themes. His western stories are much more political than his crime novels. Dialogue also takes a back seat, or more correctly his dialogue becomes more prominent in his later writing. This maybe because he was still learning his craft but I suspect it is more reflective of the understated nature of the western genre. Leonard is also much more descriptive in his western writing and again I think this is because there is more significance on the landscape in the genre. Which only proves, even in his early days, Leonard was a master writer who knew his craft like few other writers.

ISBN: 9780061242922
ISBN-10: 0061242926
Classification: Westerns
Format: Paperback / softback (230mm x 153mm x 39mm)
Pages: 546
Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publish Date: 8-May-2007
Country of Publication: United States

4 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard’s THE COMPLETE WESTERN STORIES

  1. I am a huge fan of Elmore Leonard. I think i have read just about every book he has written.
    I lived just a few miles away from him in Michigan. When ever he made it to the local books stores ,i made sure i was there. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this –

  2. Jon, your comment on the lack of dialog was spot on. Read the stories in the order they were published, each one’s narrative improves, and gaining confidence. The early stories show flashes of what would become the Elmore Leonard style. By the late 1950’s his narrative voice has taken shape, but will be influenced by other authors. For research of Arizona and New Mexico, he used ARIZONA HIGHWAYS Magazine. To make sure everything else looked and sounded correct, these two books, THE LOOK OF THE OLD WEST by Foster- Harris and WESTERN WORDS by Ramon F. Adams were employed. I’m sure there were other books, but I believe these were the main ones.
    I got to know Dutch a little, and had a correspondence over the years. Such a nice guy. His son, Peter, is writing in the very similar style, and has a half dozen novels to his credit. Good ones and highly recommended.

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