Valdez is Coming – Elmore Leonard
I love Westerns but usually in film format. I don’t know why, I guess it is because there just not seem to be an abundance of choice in the genre. Lately I have been keen to correct my ignorance on this subject. What better way than to start with Elmore Leonard?
They laughed at Roberto Valdez and then ignored him. But when a dark-skinned man was holed up in a shack with a gun, they sent the part-time town constable to deal with the problem -- and made sure he had no choice but to gun the fugitive down. Trouble was, Valdez killed an innocent man. And when he asked for justice -- and some money for the dead man's woman -- they beat Valdez and tied him to a cross. They were still laughing when Valdez came back. And then they began to die...
“Valdez is Coming” is a short book with a plot you’ve seen a million times before - A sheriff who is involved in an injustice and then is determined to make things right. On paper it should be bland, in reality though it is a terrific book.
Leonard’s writing is clipped and perfunctory. I happened to read an interview where he said he does not believe in lots of description but believes characters and dialogue are what drive a story. This is certainly evident here.
Valdez is an excellent character. Again he is nothing we haven’t seen before. He is the strong stoic type who has a firm moral compass but oozes a sense of coolness. He appears unflappable when confronted with situations most men would cower at. At the same time he never comes across as impervious. He possesses a certain vulnerability that distinguishes him from most heroes. I am not talking about a weakness in his personality such as a drinking problem or prone to outbursts of violence but just an everyday exposure that we all have. It makes him likeable.
The other characters are also strong. From Tanner the main antagonist who is suitably malicious to Inez his loyal friend. Every character is someone that could easily captivate the reader’s attention for the whole book.
As I mentioned the plot is simple but that does not stop it being effective. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing the outcome. Speaking of which the ending is terrific. It is abrupt, which is apparently a trade mark of Lenard’s but it is all the better for it. Some might complain it does not bring complete resolution but to me it does if not explicitly.
Overall, “Valdez is coming,” is a terrific read. It is fun, fast-paced but serious. I will definitely be reading more from Lenard.
My rating: 8.8