Jun 11 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard

Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard is a collection of short, previously unpublished stories of both the Western and crime varieties (available June 16, 2015).

Charlie Martz and Other Stories could be slightly jarring for unsuspecting Elmore Leonard devotees. The fifteen short stories—eleven never before published—were written early in The Dickens of Detroit's celebrated career when he was still cultivating his craft. His son, Peter Leonard, in the introduction acknowledges these early tales break several of the celebrated senior Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing—I began counting how many exclamation points appear in one story. Still, there’s much to welcome in this posthumous assortment by an author Stephen King hailed as, “the great American writer.”

"Charlie Martz” is a terrific Western number that finds a man named Bushway in the sleepy town of Mesilla, befriended by a saloon’s lone customer, Schmidt. Bushway appears startled to learn a mutual acquaintance, Martz, is a local sheriff, and Schmidt offers to escort the two-gun toting stranger to meet Martz unaware that Bushway is an assassin out to kill the lawman. Later, Bushway holds Schmidt and his wife hostage in their home until Martz shows up, after which Bushway forces the wife to spark their close-quarters duel:

Mrs. Schmidt held the long-handled spoon as if it were an object of evil. She bit her lower lip, not making a sound, but her eyes pleaded in the direction of the gunman. Bushway was about to yell at her again when she closed her eyes and with a shudder, swung the spoon behind her with all her might.

The sharp CLANG of the dishpan vibrated no more than a second before the room was filled with the explosive bark of a Colt ... a split second ... then the same crashing short bark as a Colt jerked fire from its barrel.

Some boisterous cowhands in “First Western Siesta in Paloverde” are lounging about the town’s watering hole, humiliating Martz by swiping his gun and playing keep away until a notorious gunslinger, Reb Spadea, arrives forcing Martz to demonstrate exactly why he has four notches on his Colt. “Paloverde” is almost a rewrite of “Charlie Martz” and contradicts the earlier tale when Martz expounds on where he killed Bushway. Perhaps, old Martz simply forgot or was exaggerating. One thing’s for certain, Leonard at this period in his evolution, had a knack for spinning the Western yarn with effortless charm.

But for those who prefer Leonard’s crime fiction output, “One, Horizontal” features an older brother looking for revenge for his younger sibling who had been maimed by a mobster and wisely isn't looking for retribution himself. A real vibe for old Detroit permeates and delivers the kind of blunt action a Leonard reader craves:

His gun hung at his side. He glanced around and then took the decoration handkerchief from his breast pocket and began wiping his forehead and eyes.

He was looking into plain white when the rock smashed into his face ... with my hand around it. Before he went down I let go with three more.

A larger than expected Ernest Hemingway influence is prevalent, and a true gem is “A Happy Light-Hearted People” which is as sincere a homage to Hemingway as has ever been written—Papa himself could have been confused, after a Scotch or two, whether he wrote it (we discover in the introduction that Leonard learned to write by placing a blank piece of paper over the text of a Hemingway tale and rewriting the passage in his own manner). The dialogue in “A Happy Light-Hearted People” forms a bridge, of sorts, from Hemingway's impact to the gritty, wry, language that Leonard became known for a couple of decades later. Bonus: "Arma Virumque Cano,” another Hemingway infused piece, finds a salesman picking up a young female hitchhiker with unexpected results, and is the perfect blending of these two twentieth-century titans’ distinct styles.

Film critic Roger Ebert nailed it when reviewing the Stephen Soderbergh 1998 adaptation of Leonard’s Out of Sight, by saying, “Elmore Leonard is above all the creator of colorful characters.” And this collection certainly serves up another batch of those gravelly, authentic, fringe-dwelling lives. First time readers to Leonard should probably start with one of his later novels like 52 Pick-Up, Stick, or Glitz. Leonard aficionados by all means should dig straightaway into Charlie Martz and Other Stories and savor what little we have left from this undisputed master.

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Edward A. Grainger aka David Cranmer is the editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books and the recent Western novella, Hell Town Shootout.

Read all of Edward A. Grainger's posts for Criminal Element.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Gordon Bingham
1. gordonbingham
Elmore Leonard is an important enough writer whose lesser known eorkes need publihing, And to be read.
Marjorie Manharth
3. mmanharth
Elmore Leonard has been on every vacation with me for years and years. Like potato chips and m&ms.
4. DebP
Iève heard so much about Elmore Leonard, and have seen movies made from his books, but have never had the pleasure of reading one for myself.
6. Shannon Baas
I would like this.
Sandy Klocinski
7. SKlocinski
I've never read anything by Elmore Leonard but would like to
Benita Glickman
13. Benita
I would love to read Elmore Lenard's work!
Karen Martin
17. tattwo
I would love to read these Elmore Leonard stories. Thanks
Russell Moore
20. russrpm
Something new from an old friend. Looking forward to reading it.
Nancy Marcho
23. nmarcho
I love short stories. Unfortunately, I don't see as many short story collections as I used to.
Jeanette Jackson
24. lindahl
I'd like to enter for this book please.
Jeffrey Malis
25. bravejam
This has been on my TBR list ever since I first heard of its potential release. I appreciate the opportunity to take a glimpse back into the formative years of one of the 'greats'... Thanks for the chance!
Barbara Nolan
26. ellen611
If Stephen King likes it, it must be good. Would love to read it.
Beverly Henry
30. bevhen
I am always looking for new books to read and would love to win
Mary Ann Brady
31. mirahana
Sounds interesting. Would love to read it.
Bill Cook
32. Jazdog
“I always felt, you don’t have a good time doin' crime, you may as well find a job.” Can't beat readin' Elmore Leonard doin' crime.
lynette thompson
This looks to be the read of the summer. Love it. Thank you
Peggy Carpenter
36. CarpenterP
Love Elmore Leonard. He's one of the first authors my husband and I shared when we became friends. Eons and eons ago. :)
Seana Graham
38. seana
When you conside that the whole Justified series came out of one Leonard story, you know his short fiction is pretty hefty.
Laurence Coven
39. Holmes
As many great writers who made their bones in one particular genre did, Leonard was an accomplished writer who was not limited to mystery/suspense. While Westerns are now a fairly unpoular genre, my hunch is that Leonard's short stories might go a ways to reversing that trend. Great writers are great writers no matter their choice of subject material.
42. actuary101
I've loved Leonard's stories for many years. He came to our Tucson Festival of Books the first two years and was a very interesting speaker. Interestingly, he said that he wrote all his books out longhand on 11" tablets! He also did not use colons or semicolons - said it should be a new sentence.
43. Stacy
I feel lucky to live in a time with so many great books. Was just checking out Elmore Leonard's bibliography, published in order.
Susan Pertierra
45. orchidlady01
I would love to read unpublished short stories from Elmore Leaonard.
46. gamblewriter
Leonard is gone. As is Carver and Poe! Wish they were still with us...missing them...and treasuring T.C. Boyle...regretting the existence of Bwannabe Kindalls..
Kathleen Evans
48. Swamplands
He observed people; then ran them through his typewriter and turned loose in new surroundings.
patricia gibby
49. pgibby1
I would love to win this. Love Elmore Leonard.
Rick Ollerman
50. ollerman
This sounds like a great complement to the series from Library of America....
Laura McLendon
51. LMcLendon
Elmore Leonard will be missed, he wrote some crazy, wacky, weird, Great stuff!!
Mildred Mayo
52. Mildredmayo
With a glass of ice tea, in a comfortable chair and reading this Elmore Leonard book ,ahhh, the perfect way to spend a summer evening.
Karl Stenger
53. Stenger
I would love to read this collection.
Cullen Gallagher
58. cullen812
Hope this is only the first in many unpulished Leonard collections to come!
Jennifer Graham
59. leonesse56
I am excited to see this, and can't wait to read the collection!
60. superdee9
would be awesome to win and read these great books
Joanne Mielczarski
61. jtmswim
I am a fan of Elmore Leonard and am happy for the opportunity to receive this book.
Debby Kulchar
62. superdee9
Hey this would be great to win - so excited!
Charlene Roberson
63. TXCharley
I just LOVE Elmore Leonard. Now that we have lost him AND Justified, I am at my wit's end....................
Denise Jenkins
65. readwrite
I watched Justified and loved it from day one. I didn't read any of Mr. Leonard's books but I do love a western. I from the old scjool of western's. Rifleman, Wagon Train and I loved Silverado. I am reading DOC at this time and it is well written. I am trying to read as many books as I can but I have found out that that is going to take time!
Margot Core
67. AnnaZed
So pleased to find that there is more Elmore Leonard that I haven't read yet!
susan beamon
68. susanbeamon
I have enjoyed reading Elmore Leonard ever since I first read KillShot, and I have no idea how long ago that was. I especially lied how he moved the story through conversation more than anything else.
71. bigsandwich6
Love Leonard's westerns
Kathleen Kelly
72. celticlady
I have read and enjoyed almost all of Elmore Leonard's works. I am definitely a fan. I have even loved the TV series Justified, based on Fire in the Hole! It would be awesome to read and have this book in my library. Thank you for the opportunity!
Sara Sugihara
74. xdancer
love Elmore Leonard and would love to win this!!
Michael Carter
75. rubydog
Leonard's writing is great.
Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Theresa Sivelle
78. hiking1957
This is the only author my husband reads. I would love to give these to him and maybe try them myself. :-)
Linda Peters
79. linnett
I have read most of his books, but don't recall this one so it would be nice to win, thanks
Sally Winkleblech
80. sallyw
I enjoy his books, would be interesting to read his earliest books to see how his writing evolved.
Ronald Roseborough
81. Ronrose1
I'm new to Leonard's writing, but it sounds like a must read. Count me in.
Cindy Hipolito
83. mysuccess
Enjoy all your giveaways. Thanks bunches!
Chris Teel
84. Teelioli
My intro to Leonard was Maximum Bob. Umpteen books later and he never failed to entertain me.
85. Tasker
It's in the dialogue.
Jaime Aron
86. jaimearon
RIP, Elmore. Look forward to reading more from the master.
Wesley Glassgow
87. glassgow
I enjoy the authenticity of his settings, the individual quirkiness of his characters, and plots that meander like real life. He was more than a wordsmith forming sentences, he crafted images on the page.
D Hamilton
88. scubish
I love all his works, and have been a fan since I was a teenager. Elmore Leonard is sadly missed.
Tawney Mazek
90. tmaze
Early Elmore - definitley of interest. I suspect what I so like about his writing is already there.
Ted A Schmidt
91. schmitted
One can only hope that there is more Leonard in bottom drawers in Detroit, Birmingham awaiting publishing.
Pam Flynn
92. desdemona
On this rainy day...again...I would love to read a good story from Elmore Leonard! I have not read his work yet but can't wait to be introduced!
Wilifred Alire
94. walire
Never read his short fiction, looking forward to his gritty westerns.
95. B Hamilton
I would love to read this!
97. Amy Alkon
People who want to read Elmore Leonard should read the work he *intended* to have published -- Swag, Glitz, 52 Pickup, and on from there.
Caryn Neumann
98. BuckeyeClio
Elmore Leonard! I can't wait to read this!
M Thompson
99. MST
This would be a wonderful book to read. Love Elmore Leonard.
Andra Dalton
101. andra77
Being a huge Elmore Leonard fan this is just about the most amazing giveaway I could imagine!!! Thanks so much for the opportunity to win & good luck to all who enter!!!:)
Karen Terry
102. bblol65
I love Elmore Leonard's books. There is always a good plot and good conversations in his books. You always knew what the characters were thinking and feeling.
Kris Kaminski
103. kjkski
nothing better than a Elmore story!
Janice Milliken
104. msjiva
what a storyteller-this would be a treasued book in my library!
Renee Rousseau
106. reneejr
I am new to
Elmore Leonard's books and have placed him high on my TBR list.
109. madhoydenish
Thanks for the giveaway. Sounds like a great read.
Jerry Marquardt
110. versatileer
I would like to explore Elmore Leonard. I have heard geat things and from what I see, I am very interested in reading this soon.
Brian Eason
111. brianpiero
Thanks for the giveaway... EL is one of my favorite writers.
Buddy Garrett
113. garrettsambo
I would enjoy reading this book. It sounds great. Thanks.
Barbara Fish
118. Barb Fish
I really really want to win this book.
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