I think of Elmore Leonard primarily as a novelist with books like Gold Coast, The Switch, Tishomingo Blues and Cuba Libre among my favorites. But I was introduced to him by a short story, and I was immediately hooked. Leonard’s seemingly effortless cool, his pared down prose, and unerring ear for dialog fit the short form as well they do the longer. This is the second time I read this collection, later republished as Fire In the Hole when Justified, the pilot episode of which was based on the new title story. The whole thing is great, but the back half is loaded with great stories.
Sparks- This could be an excellent one act play. An insurance fraud investigator interviews a woman whose house burned down in a fire. Highly Recommended.
Hanging Out At The Buena Vista- An elderly man courts an elderly woman in their retirement community. Highly Recommended.
Chickasaw Charlie Hoke- This was later absorbed into one of my favorite Leonard novels, Tishomingo Blues. The title character is a fast talker and former baseball player who talks his way into a hosting gig at the hotel that provides that novel’s setting. I might like this even more if I didn’t know how great the rest of the story around it is. Highly Recommended.
When The Women Come Out To Dance- A mail order bride with a secret helps an ex-stripper married to a rich man in a tough situation. Highly Recommended.
Fire in the Hole- The basis for the pilot of Justified. In the aftermath of the “justified” killing of a gangster at the end of the novel Pronto, Raylan Givens is sent to his home ground of Kentucky and runs into an old flame, an old friend (now his boss), and an old coal digging buddy (now a criminal). The latter, Boyd Crowder, became one of the all time great TV characters. It’s hard to separate this story from my love for the show, but I feel pretty confident that I love it. Canon Worthy.
Karen Makes Out- Out of Sight seems to be the consensus choice for best Leonard adaptation, and I certainly agree. Karen Sisco, one of the main characters of that novel, is the main character here. While it’s technically a prequel, it feels like a dry run for that novel. I think it’s just as entertaining. Canon Worthy.
Hurrah for Captain Early- My favorite Leonard short story (with the possible exception of How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman, later absorbed into The Hot Kid, the first thing I ever read by him). In 1898 Bo Catlett, a black veteran of the Spanish American War visits a small fictional Arizona town called Sweetmary where Captain Early, a “hero” of the battle of San Juan Hill is early awaited. Catlett knows that Early was no hero, nor were TR and the rough riders. Rather they were well intentioned people in way over their heads. Catlett is refused entry to the hotel and when he goes to a bar runs afoul of some people who are not happy with the way he punctures the myth of San Juan Hill. It plays out perfectly. Canon.
The Tonto Woman- Ruben Vega, a Mexican outlaw runs into Sarah Isham, the wife of a local baron who lives in complete isolation. She was kidnapped by Native Americans who gave her face a distinctive tattoo, and her husband is ashamed of her. I don’t want to spoil where it goes from there. Canon Worthy.
Tenkiller- The protagonist of this story is the grandson Virgil Webster from Cuba Libre and the son of Carl Webster from The Hot Kid and Up In Honey’s Room. He is a former rodeo rider and a stuntman in Hollywood. When his girlfriend, a stuntwoman, dies in an accident, he goes home to his family pecan farm only to find that some criminals have leased the place and let it nearly go to rot. I love the way this one ends. Canon.
Overall Collection: Canon Worthy
Rereads And Everything Else 19/35