Today is Elmore Leonard day on Forgotten Books. Though justly famed as a crime writer, I decided to go with the early part of his career as a western writer In the introduction to this collection, Leonard states that when he decided he wanted to be a writer, after college, he chose a genre in which he could learn to write while getting paid at the same time. It was on westerns he decided to start.
Of course it wasn’t that easy.
His firs effort was rejected and he decided a little research might be handy. His aim was for the higher paying magazines, Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. There were also a half dozen pulp magazines still in existence. There his early success was found.
Leonard expressed a liking for the American southwest and the Apache, not caring much for the high plains tribes. His first half dozen or so tales mixed the Apache with Union soldiers, various situations which turned a number of stereotypes on their ears. One, the green officer fresh out of West Point sure if he went by the rules, he could defeat those “savages.” They are there to be sure, but a bit smarter in most cases.
Thirty stories in the collection, all but a few written and published in the early to mid-fifties. The last few spread out from the sixties to the nineties. 3:10 TO YUMA is here(made into two excellent movies with only minor changes to the story), The Captives(made into the film THE TALL T), and Only Good Ones which he later expanded into the novel Valdez is Coming!(made into the film starring Burt Lancaster).
Most early in his writing career, one can see the developing style and his way of putting the reader square into the story: the sweltering heat of the southwest desert country, the prejudices, and the valiant people of all stripe.
A most excellent collection.
For more posts on Leonard works, and perhaps others, check in at PATTINASE.