Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Elmore Leonard and Charlie Martz

Photo credit Elmore Leonard/Harper Collins 

Today Harper Collins is releasing a volume of Elmore Leonard's previously unpublished stories, a called Charlie Martz and Other Stories. Elmore Leonard, who passed away in 2013, is famous for novels and short stories that turned into popular movies and TV shows, like Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Justified and a slew of best selling books, like Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, and Rum Punch

The collection was blessed by his son, Peter, who wrote a charming introduction to the book. He talked about how Elmore taught himself to write by putting a blank page over a scene by Hemingway and re-writing it his own way. 

The endpapers of the hard back book feature Elmore's handwritten edits over a typed page. I don't recall reading end papers so intently in any other book. You can see one of the four photos pictured above. There you can see Elmore hand written edits to a Western in the book called "Confession" about a priest in the Wild West. 

These stories were mostly written while Elmore was practicing his craft, still working a day job at an advertising agency. It's a mix of westerns and mystery.  I'd say unpublished stories by such a famous writer, were unpublished for a reason - because he didn't want them to be published. But this collection is an excellent exception.  And as an added bonus it's fun to searching for clues to Elmore's later character's and stories. 

Justified itself was based on a short story called, "Fire in the Hole," that saw the birth of the most eloquent villain ever created - Boyd Crowder. But traces of the character of Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant in the TV show) can be detected here in the character of Charlie Martz, although Martz is much older than Givens, and his dry wit is not quite as honed, he can still draw his gun faster than anyone. I just felt Raylan's presence.

This book is a rare opportunity to see the beginnings of a great writer. It's a study in itself. If you love Elmore Leonard, the art of storytelling, great characterization and/or short stories, you'll want to get this book. 

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