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 Elmore Leonard's westerns

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richard09

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PostSubject: Elmore Leonard's westerns   Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:01 pm

I swung by the library this afternoon, to return a book before it became overdue, and of course I was thinking I should pick up something else to read. But I had no idea what I fancied. And then Elmore Leonard sprang to mind. I've read some of his books, but I know he has written many more than that, so I went to the appropriate shelf to see what was there. Lo and behold, here's a new edition that contains his best westerns, four novels and eight shorter stories. I had no idea had written any westerns, but apparently he loved the genre and started his career writing them. I certainly had heard of the movies that came from them: Last Stand At Saber River, Hombre, Valdez Is Coming, 3:10 To Yuma.

I'll let you know what I think after I've read them.
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PostSubject: Re: Elmore Leonard's westerns   Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:28 pm

Leonard write some of the most entertaining books I've read.
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richard09

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PostSubject: Re: Elmore Leonard's westerns   Wed Aug 22, 2018 2:38 pm

OK. So far I've read Last Stand At Saber River, Valdez Is coming, 3:10 To Yuma, and The Apache Trail.

The first two are novels, the second two short stories. They are all similar, in the sense that they are straight-up stories, with little of the humor that Leonard infused into his later writing (remember, these were all from early in his career). They all amount to character studies, the novels, especially, delving into several characters at once and exploring how they interact. I know, most good writing could be described that way, but I'm not seeing anything particularly distinctive to point to. Even the settings and the western life are not described in particular, only in passing: the people are what he is writing about. And having said all that, I think it sounds like I'm criticizing, but actually I'm not. All the stories were very readable and generally satisfying, which I think they probably wouldn't have been if produced by a lesser writer.

Another writer who produced a few westerns along with a substantial body of modern crime stuff was Robert B. Parker. I like all his stuff, too. And his Spenser novels include a fair amount of humor. So there's a reasonable parallel for comparison between Parker and Leonard. And I have to say, I think Leonard's westerns are better than Parker's. Parker's stories are like a TV western - they tend to steer towards a showdown climax where the good guys out-draw the bad guys. Leonard's characters have guns, but by-and-large, they just want to live ordinary lives, and what shooting happens is forced upon them (and doesn't involve pistols at ten paces, or whatever). Leonard's characters read as real people.

As usual, ymmv.
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