Friday 30 January 2009


Last Stand at Sabre River
Elmore Leonard
Harper Torch Western
originally published 1959

Elmore Leonard is best known these days for his excellent crime novels but years before he became the king of crime he was a master of the western. And this book is well up to his usual high standard.

Paul Cable rides into Arizona with his wife and children after being discharged from the Confederate army. However in his absence two brothers have taken over his house and land and they seem to think they have a right to it. But Cable is not the sort of man to give up without a fight.

The westerns are written in the same style as the author's crime classics - long stretches of dialogue that carry the story forward and real multi-layered characters. It's never a simple case of good guys and bad guys with Leonard and it makes for a far deeper story. There are shades of grey aplenty here just as there are in real life...just as there was in the real Old West.

Of course Leonard's unique talent is in creating low life characters that are so real the reader can hear their speech patterns and feels genuine revulsion and fear when they take center stage. And in Leonard's West there are plenty of low life sons of bitches.

Last stand at Sabre River is a quality western that will delight newcomers and long time fans of the genre alike.


Unknown said...

For the most part, I prefer Leonard's westerns to his crime novels.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Bill - that's interesting. I'd read a lot of his western shorts but this is the first novel of this. I have read most of his crime, though. I was mighty impressed by Last Stand and thought is superior to a lot of the pulp westerns of the same time. I'm gonna get all his novels - which would you go for next?

Cullen Gallagher said...

Lately I've been wanting to read some Western novels, as I never have before. Is this a good place to start? Any suggestions?


Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Cullen - Elmer Kelton and L'amour are all good bets. And also try the Black Horse Western range (available from most libraries.

Ray said...

And the Tom Sellack movie is good too.

Gary - I'd go for 'Hombre' - I know it was a Paul Newman movie but I preferred the book.

Unknown said...

Valdez Is Coming is another you must read, Gary, though you will recognize its beginnings in the the short story Only Good Ones.

The list of Leonard western novels is, sadly, not very long. Read 'em all, I'd say! (A side note, I believe Hombre's first UK edition was published by Hale.)

Steve M said...

I've read most, if not all, of Leonard's westerns many, many years ago. From what I can remember I'd say you wont be disappointed with any of them. Valdez Is Coming was one of my favourites though.

Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed Hombre but wouldnt' consider it my favorite western. I always struggle a little with dialogue laden stories.

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