Book #3

Gunsights by Elmore Leonard

This is my second foray into Leonard’s fiction and the first western I’ve read. Actually, the second half of that statement isn’t true. It depends, I suppose, on how you define western. Apparently, I seems to have a gender bias in what stories fit that genre. I’ve read some Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cater in my time, and two excellent non-fiction books, No Life for a Lady by Agnes Morley Cleveland and Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. These are filled with the hardships and dangers (and beauties) of carving out a home life in the Old West. Despite the efforts to show that a woman’s life was as difficult as a man’s, they lack the tropes that western movies and TV shows have presented. There might be outlaws and desperados, but the men-folk took care of them while the women stayed behind (and dealt with whatever else might come along).

Of course, in picking Elmore Leonard’s Gunsights, I might not have chosen the purest western ever. Or maybe, there’s no such thing.  From Goodreads:

Brendan Early and Dana Moon track renegade Apaches together and gun down scalp hunters, becoming legends in the Arizona Territory. But now they face each other from opposite sides of a fierce frontier fight.

I chose it for its Arizona setting and the situation between its main characters. The story shares ground with the TV show Justified, of which Leonard is an executive producer and co-writer. A fairly unscrupulous mining company is bent on clearing the Rincon Mountains of its settlers. What they end up with is two friends on either side of the conflict and a loose canon that needs to be taken dealt with. Most of the story is told from the perspective of a Chicago newspaper man.

I like Leonard’s ease at moving through a story. He doesn’t bother too much with connecting the dots between events. He lays things out and, as a reader, I get the picture. I like that during action scene, he changes tense to convey immediacy. The ending of the book is maybe a little unsatisfactory. It’s fast and abrupt. Yet, I can’t see any other way it should have ended, so I’m okay with it.  Can all writers get away with these things, or just Leonard because he’s Leonard?


I’ve been keeping up with my other reading, but not my updates (not that I ever made them a requirement). I’ve finished eight short stories in February thus far, and nine poems. The Nebula finalist were announced this past week, adding to my list of short story fodder.

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