Cannonball Read IV: The Law at Randado by Elmore Leonard
My second stab at Mr. Leonard’s work is a Western from early in his career. Back when I was younger, way before the internet, I read everything available and frequently hit up family friends and the local library for books. Originally I preferred mysteries, but when I ran out of those, I disovered both science fiction and westerns. Mostly I was exposed to Zane Grey and Louis L’amour. Mr. Leonard would easily fit in with them, although (based on a single book and a couple of short stories) Mr. Leonard’s characters may be a bit different and his style is somewhat unique.
The hero of The Law at Randado is a local boy who was “promoted” from cattle hand to deputy. The sheriff and judge are at the county seat some distance away. When the book starts, the deputy has arrested two Mexican men who were stealing cattle from the wealthiest ranch in the area. He is also trying to stop some Native American’s making illegal whiskey. He’s caught one and is searching for the others. The three prisoners are in his jail awaiting the sheriff coming and transporting them for trial. The wealthy rancher is old and dying and his son is pretty much the poster child for mean, spoiled, rich boy. He bullies (although in most cases it doesn’t take much) some of the more prominent townspeople into inciting the population into a lynch mob. They take the two cattle thieves out of the jail and lynch them. The deputy returns, gets beat up, goes to the sheriff, gets warrants, returns, gets beat up and hauled out of town again, then returns again. It’s pretty much a standard western, except it isn’t. The deputy is tough and stubborn, but he isn’t the fastest gun, nor the best brawler. He confronts his enemies head on, but uses his brains. There is a gun fight, but it isn’t the quick draw you would expect and the final confrontation is unusual and non-violent to say the least.
Leonard’s humor and style isn’t as polished as his more recent work, but it’s there. His philosophy seems to be to tell the story and not let unnecessary description get in the way. That may be why so many of his tales become movies or books. To read a Leonard story is to use your imagination, because he tells you what’s happening, but unless it’s very critical, not what anything looks like. If he wants you to know someone is a tall man, he doesn’t tell you, but a character in the story might mention it, or you might have to figure it out from the man’s actions. This book isn’t something I would go out of my way to find, but if you are into westerns, it’s not a bad one. It wouldn’t make it into my favorites anytime soon.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)
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