Thursday, February 12, 2009

Elmore Leonard: Cowboys and Crime

Elmore Leonard, recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's grand master award, will be honored by the Western Writers of America for his lifetime contribution to the cowboy genre as well.

Elmore, you are the BEST, dude. A master in two genres?

Leonard, who began his fiction writing with westerns, including Three-Ten to Yuma and Hombre before he turned to the crime writing he is better known for today, was "long overdue" for such recognition, according to a Western Writers spokesman. "Elmore Leonard has had a tremendous impact on the western and crime genres," he said. "He has always been a gifted storyteller, and never afraid to take chances. That's why his westerns remain in print decades after they were first published, and why anthologies of his short western fiction fill bookshelves."

Leonard, who will receive the Owen Wister award for lifetime contribution to western literature - a bronze buffalo - on 20 June at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma, said he was surprised but delighted to win. "I love the western genre," he said, "and writing them was a great way to learn to write."

Leonard first made it into print with a western short story, Trail of the Apache, in 1951. He followed this up with other stories including The Boy Who Smiled, The Tonto Woman and The Captives, which were all westerns. His first novel The Bounty Hunters tells the story of the hunt for an Apache renegade hiding in Mexico; a later work Hombre, in which Apache John Russell, at first shunned by the stagecoach passengers he is travelling with, ends up having to lead them out of the desert after outlaws set upon them, was voted one of the best westerns of all time in 1961.

After writing westerns including The Law at Randado, Escape from Five Shadows and Forty Lashes Less One, the market for the genre began to slow down, and Leonard switched to crime with The Big Bounce. His 1985 novel Glitz was his first major bestseller, followed by a string of much acclaimed novels including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Rum Punch and Cuba Libre.

You can't find a bad book in the bunch, people. Try Elmore, will you?

Thanks to Elmore and the Western Writers

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