THE TONTO WOMAN by Elmore Leonard


and Other Western Stories
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Superb rawhide shoot-’em-ups from Leonard’s early years that not only stand tall beside his bestselling crime fiction (Out of Sight, 1996, etc.) but might even revive the moribund western literary genre. Leonard’s first nine published novels were westerns, one of which became the creaky Paul Newman’s 1967 film Hombre. While supporting himself as an advertising copywriter, Leonard developed his steely-eyed, resourceful but romantically compassionate American heroes, his feisty females, the villainous authority figures, menacing oddballs, and fast-talking nincompoops that he later transferred so successfully to the contemporary urban environments of Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, and Hollywood. Though Leonard’s rugged western scouts talk the talk and appreciate the difference between a Sharps and Winchester rifle, there is a timeless excitement in these spare, tauntingly wrought scenes of macho confrontation against a harsh, lawless landscape that brings out the best and worst in everyone. Like the stories of Raymond Chandler, these 19 episodic tales, played out among the dusty, Apache-haunted canyons between the aptly named towns of Inspiration and Contention, are highly polished set pieces, replete with the winking humor and masculine terror that lack only the escalating sense of violence and prolonged tension of the longer books. A stage robbery goes awry when a renegade Mescalero decides to test his manhood (“Trouble at Rindo’s Station”); unbearable guilt makes Bob Valdez go from good guy to bad when he’s forced to kill an innocent man (“Only Good Ones”); Amelia Darck, wife of a US Cavalry colonel, stares down an Apache bandit (“The Colonel’s Lady”); and, in a long story that prefigures the heart-stopping climaxes of Leonard’s crime novels, Pat Brennan, a luckless, unarmed cowboy, valiantly rescues a woman abandoned by her craven husband from a trio of homicidal kidnappers. A list of publishing credits, or an introduction indicating what magazines or editors nurtured the master’s career, might have helped future biographers. Still, these lean and stirring action stories are among the best of Leonard’s long career.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32386-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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