cover image The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories

The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories

Elmore Leonard. Delacorte Press, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32386-4

As many readers know, Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns before turning to modern-day thrillers with Fifty-two Pickup. These excellent 19 stories may prompt a reexamination of the early novels. Each is clearly based on deep research: we learn a lot about the strains among Apaches (Mescaleros, Lipans, etc.), the black Tenth Cavalry, even the interior of a stagecoach station. As in Leonard's later work, there are three-dimensional, believable good and bad guys. Indians, Mexicans and ""white men"" interact and we see the power of money, class and racism, as in the classic ""Only Good Ones."" Anti-lynching (and maybe anti-death penalty) sentiment is strong in ""No Man's Guns"" and ""Three-Ten to Yuma."" ""Hurrah for Capt. Early"" could be a mini-sequel or sidebar to Leonard's newest novel, Cuba Libre. (Aficionados will relish the first sentence: ""The second banner said `Hero of San Juan Hill.'"") The last story, ""Trouble At Rindo's Station,"" has almost as many plot turns as Leonard's thriller capers. Written between the 1950s and '80s, these stories have aged as well as a Stetson. Every one is first-rate Leonard: laconic, tough-minded and, naturally, gripping. (Sept.)