Thursday, 4 February 2010

Get on your Writing Workshop Horse.

Elmore Leonard is best known for his slick, amusing and ‘sassy’ thrillers. Less well known is that he started out as a writer of westerns – a genre much less popular today than the early decades of the 20th century. In my youth I was a great fan of the western - in particular of Zane Grey – but I had rather lost interest in this period and style of novel. However, when I came upon Elmore Leonard’s The Complete Western Stories, at my favourite bookshop Daunt, I couldn’t resist it if only to compare the two genres.

The Complete Western Stories (Orion Publishing Company, available second hand from for as little as £1.65) shows Elmore Leonard’s style and technique improving through the years (the book is compiled in date order). You can immediately appreciate how his later thrillers evolved from the characters and situations in his westerns – and became novels instead of short stories. It is possible to see the content and style being honed and it is a pleasure to read about heroes and villains who make your imagination work and are neither facile nor simple. It is immaterial that the stories are set in a time and place not known to the modern reader. My only reservation is his depiction of female characters are not as developed or certainly aren’t as interesting as they are in his thrillers. Nevertheless treat yourself bearing in mind that, like a lot of short stories compilation, it is a book to dip into not read in one go.

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