Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard
Fawcett Gold Medal T2918, Copyright 1970
" Just a little war, if he wants it," Valdez said.
As most Elmore Leonard fans know, the author started out writing short stories for Western magazines and his first novels were Westerns. In 1961, Elmore Leonard wrote a short story for Western Roundup called "Only Good Ones." Later in the decade, he was looking for an idea for a new novel and started searching over his past work. He took "Only Good Ones," made it the first chapter in his book and wrote the classic Western novel, "Valdez is Coming."
Powerful Frank Tanner and his men have a suspected Army deserter and his Apache wife trapped in a shack. Seems this deserter killed a friend of Tanner's six months earlier, and he wants him dead. It's turning into a big spectacle as humble Bob Valdez, a part-time constable from the Mexican side of town, arrives at the scene. Valdez goes down to talk the man into giving himself up. Tanner's men start firing and Valdez is forced to kill the man to protect himself. The man turns out not to be the one Tanner was after. Later, Valdez wants to take up a collection for the widowed Apache wife, but gets plenty of hostility from Frank Tanner on that idea. On one trip to see Tanner about the money, Valdez is ridiculed, humiliated, and left to wander and die bound to a wooden crosspole. But Valdez survives, and when he comes back he comes back as a different Bob Valdez. A Valdez from the past....
Valdez brought up the barrels of the Remington from his lap, and with the ten-bore explosion close in from of him, the Mexican came out of the saddle...His eyes were open and he had his left arm tight to his side.The shotgun charge had torn through his side at the waist.
Valdez smiled, "You ride to Mr. Tanner, all right? Tell him Valdez is coming. You hear what I said? Valdez is coming. But listen friend, I think you better go there quick."
Valdez enters Tanner's compound and kidnaps his woman. His plan is simple, "If I have something he wants, then maybe we make a trade. Give me the money and I give you your woman." Tanner and his men go after Valdez, but they find that isn't so easy. Valdez and the woman develop a respectful and sympathetic relationship during the ordeal, which Leonard gracefully presents to the reader. This isn't a story about vengeance, it's about correcting a wrong, a noble attempt to seek justice. Valdez is a modest man, who possesses a hidden courage to do what is right. This is a profound novel, with dynamic characters -some displaying a nature of extreme brutality, and others showing compassion and sensitivity. It's flawlessly written and has one of the best (and traditionally different) endings I read in any Western novel.
Truly an American Western Classic....
Elmore Leonard's Western novels should be revered and not forgotten. He wrote eight excellent ones and you can't go wrong reading any of them. Besides this novel, my other personal favorites are "Hombre" (the classic Apache-raised John Russell story) and "Forty Lashes Less One." (a Yuma prison story) It's been 30 years since Elmore Leonard wrote a Western novel, and that's too long. I hunger for another one. I hope he will reward us again.
"The Bounty Hunters" (1953)
"The Law at Randado" (1954)
"Escape from Five Shadows" (1956)
"Last Stand at Saber River" (1959)
"Valdez is Coming" (1970)
"Forty Lashes Less One" (1972)
Friday, September 5, 2008
Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard