Though there is a periodic call for Elmore Leonard to win the Nobel Prize, I think this modern master makes it look too easy. His twisty, crime stories go down so smoothly they can be mistaken for the kind of pulp beach reading that gets left behind in your hotel room. But unlike those disposable stories, you don’t forget Leonard’s writing—the characters, the humor, the poignancy of human beings trapped between a rock and a hard place. That he used pulp conventions to both entertain and to capture the real (if often outrageous) dilemmas of everyday people made him one of the slyest of our literary lights.
In 2012 Leonard won the national Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and joined writers like Toni Morrison, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion and Maxine Hong Kingston. These previously unpublished stories in this collection give us a look at a master developing a signature style.
This final collection of original stories will be covered in USA Today, O, The Oprah Magazine, The LA Times and the WSJ to start, with an excerpt in the June issue of Harper’s Magazine.
“Written while Leonard held a day job as an advertising copywriter, this posthumous collection showcases the early writing of the author of westerns and crime stories, revealing his particular genius in embryonic, pulpish form. Fans of Justified’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens will recognize his roots in straight-shooting Charlie Martz, a lawman in the New Mexico Territory who is featured in several stories….Readers familiar with the mean streets of Leonard’s Detroit will feel right at home with ‘One, Horizontal,’ as a man seeks revenge on the mobsters responsible for crippling his brother….Leonard’s trademark pitch-perfect ear for dialogue is on full display with the battling husband and wife of ‘The Italian Cut.’ And lovers of his movie-business satire, Get Shorty, will laugh knowingly at the antics of an overlooked American film extra making a sword-and-sandals epic in Spain….[An] enjoyable illustration of a writer taking his first halting steps toward greatness.”
— Publishers Weekly
Here we see a master craftsman in his apprenticeship… Already Leonard’s imagination is pulled between present and past, between Midwest, West, and abroad, interests that would define his career… Die-hard fans will find this one difficult to resist.”
“Like Hemingway, Leonard excels in dramatizing the point at which apparently friendly mano a mano joshing threatens to erupt in violence… Interesting for the signs and promises of the author’s future laconic command of dialogue and action and his knowing, lazy, wryly amused trademark voice.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories (9780062364920) by Elmore Leonard. $25.99 hardcover. 6/16/15 on sale.