Friday, October 10, 2014

Forgotten Books: Last Stand at Saber River - Elmore Leonard

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on January 21, 2006)

I’m on record as preferring Elmore Leonard’s early Westerns to his later crime novels, and LAST STAND AT SABER RIVER is a good reason why I feel that way. The set-up is fairly traditional: a former Confederate soldier returns home to Arizona Territory after being wounded and finds that Union sympathizers have taken over his ranch. Fightin’ and shootin’ ensues.

But what makes this such a fine book are the little touches. Instead of the usual hard-bitten loner who shows up so often in Westerns as the hero, Paul Cable is a family man with a wife (who is almost as tough as he is) and three small children. Several of the other characters aren’t really what they appear to be at first, or what the reader would expect. And the story is told in Leonard’s terse prose and wonderful dialogue. All in all, this is an excellent example of Leonard’s Westerns.


August West said...

I liked this one also. All of Leonard's westerns took place around the same location in the south eastern part of the Arizona Terriory. I read somewhere that he never visited that area when he was writing these western stories. He educated himself reading books about the area while he was living in Detroit. Reading these Westerns you would swear he got his boots dusty down there in those days.

Stephen Mertz said...

Funny thing is, for the last decade or so of his life Leonard wintered down here in Tucson. I believe a family member owns a successful restaurant in town, and Tucson is less than an hour from all those locales that he wrote about.

Walker Martin said...

I like his crime novels a lot but I have to admit his western novels are even better. Even Leonard preferred them but he was forced to switch genres by the market. By around 1970 western fiction was not selling well at all.

Anonymous said...

If you enjoy his western's and weren't aware of it, there's a collection of his western short stories. The inside jacket has reproductions of the the original pulp magazines.

My local library had it.

Silvio said...

Just finished this book, what a story! I've read all his crime novels (and his son Peter's) and this is my first Elmore western. It will definitely not be the last.