Monday, August 13, 2007

At Home on the Range

Like most young lads growing up in Lancashire, I was a fan of the Saturday morning matinees with Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, and later Bonanza and Rawhide. My favorite author at age 10 was Zane Grey. I was addicted to short stories from Zane Grey’s Western magazine, Argosy, and dime western magazines, which I bought in a second-hand bookstore in China Square, Lancaster. The magazines were dusty and ten years old, but it was there that I discovered Elmore Leonard. In 1950 (I was already one!), Leonard graduated from college, and decided he needed to make a living while learning to write. His first story sold for 2 cents a word. From there he moved onto Get Shorty, Be Cool, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch. His books are now full of urban cowboys with Detroit, Atlantic City, Miami and Florida as locations. Over the past four days I’ve been on a trip down memory lane. I’ve been re-reading The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, written between 1950-1956. It’s real escape stuff. Apache, cow punchers, scouts, robbers, rustlers, and bounty hunters all thrive in Leonard’s world. And I must say the writing stands up pretty well 55 years later. They’re earthy, sparse, tough, ironic and always on the sides of good vs evil. It’s Unforgiven territory. I love Arizona and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a couple of weeks. Feet up, reading Elmore Leonard stories down there in Sonoma.

Cowboy Up!