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When the Women Come Out to Dance - Elmore Leonard

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      30.05.2004 20:55
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      Even if you don?t read much, you may know the work of Elmore Leonard. After all, such is his reputation as a crime and thriller writer, that they?ve been making films of his novels since 1957. Tarantino turned his novel ?Rum Punch? into ?Jackie Brown?, and ?Out of Sight? and ?Get Shorty? (as well as the currently being made follow up ?Be Cool?) were originally Elmore Leonard novels. Having discovered the author by taking a chance on a recommendation, I?ve never looked back. After all, an Elmore Leonard novel is the written equivalent to a good action film ? there?s always something happening, and it?s usually something you just can?t turn away from, even for a second. But when I picked up his latest ?When the Women Come Out to Dance?, and discovered it was a collection of short stories, I was a little worried. He puts so much into his novels, I wondered if he could fit it all into anything shorter. Whilst the book was no smaller than his regular novels, it contains nine stories, and I couldn?t see how he could fit all the action and drama into that kind of space. Oh, me of little faith! Elmore Leonard?s way of fitting a lot of action into not very few pages is to make the pace even more frenetic than usual. ?Sparks? is just a conversation between two people, nothing more. But it?s a quick-fire conversation about a specific subject between two people with little to lose and plenty of information to gain. There?s so little else that it?s almost like listening in to them talk in real time and it?s gone before you even know it. ?Hanging Out at the Buena Vista? is in a similar style, but it?s a lot slower paced, ably reflecting the difference in ages of the speakers relative to the opening story. It?s the shortest tale here, but needs no more than it has
      to lead the tale from one place to another. For regular fans of Elmore Leonard, ?Chainsaw Charlie Hoke? acts as a prelude to his recent novel ?Tishomingo Blues?. For those who have read the book, it?s an interesting story that adds a little more light into Charlie?s character. For those who haven?t, it?s a slightly slower paced story, involving a little conversation and a little bit of baseball. You keep on reading purely because you want to know how it ends and turning away before you do just doesn?t seem right, even just after a couple of pages in. The title story takes a little while longer getting going, but the ending is worth it. As before ?When the Women Come Out to Dance? largely revolves around nothing more than a conversation and much is suggested as happening, rather than being described. It is part of the beauty of Leonard that you know exactly what?s going on in these situations almost as well as if they were being described in detail. ?Fire in the Hole? brings in Raylan Givens, familiar to Elmore Leonard fans from ?Riding the Rap?. Again, fans will know what to expect where Givens is concerned, but newcomers will find that Leonard can switch from conversation to describing action without pause. It?s here that you can really see why his novels work so well as films, as there isn?t a page goes by without some kind of plot advancement. It?s a longer story than most here, but passes so smoothly that you barely notice. Another familiar face for Leonard fans leads ?Karen Makes Out?. The Karen in question is Karen Sisco, from ?Out of Sight? (for the film watchers, that?s Jennifer Lopez?s character!). The story covers a brief relationship from start to end and, as in the previous story, the pace is kept high and the action keeps com
      ing. There?s a change of pace for ?Hurrah for Capt Early?, which mixes reminiscences of war time with the present. The present in this case being 1898. Leonard shows that he can write as effectively about 100 years ago as he can about 100 minutes ago, although this is more a story that drifts along with you following on behind, rather than one that snatches you up and takes you along for the ride. The time period and the pace remain older and slower for ?The Tonto Woman?. It?s a story that doesn?t seem to be going anywhere until it suddenly gets there and the point is clear. It?s a little harder going than most of the others, but well worth the effort, as it turns out to be a sweeter story than most, too. It seems more like a snippet of life than just a story, so well realised is it, although this doesn?t become apparent until afterwards. The longest story here ?Tenkiller? rounds out the collection. It?s unusual, in this collection at least, in that there?s a little back story. It?s noticeable that we get to hear a little of Ben Webster?s past in flashback, which isn?t information that Leonard has bothered with anywhere else. However, the additional length means you get all the things that make Leonard as good as he is ? it?s full of action and there are plenty of well realised characters and the kind of snappy conversations he writes so well. This book is going to have huge appeal to anyone who enjoys thrillers. If you?re already an Elmore Leonard fan and have read some of his novels, you already know how good he is and you?re not going to be disappointed in the slightest by these stories. As an added bonus Leonard returns you to some of the characters from those novels in different situations and at different times, which makes this an absolute joy to read. For the newcomer to Elmore Leonard,
      you?re likely to be amazed. The writing here is as tight and concise as any author you are likely to come across. Maybe it?s because he?s nearly 80 and figures he doesn?t have time to waste writing unnecessary prose, but every single word counts. There is very little padding with Elmore Leonard generally and even less so in these shorter stories. Pretty much every word is either someone doing something, or someone saying something that moves a story along. Leonard has been praised for his ability to realise a conversation with ?no-one writes the way people speak better than he does? being as accurate a description of his work as any. Not only can you see what?s happening, you can hear the conversations in your head, which is why his stories translate so well onto film. Leonard?s characterisation is superb as well. Even without the benefit of long descriptive passages, you still get a feel for a character. You don?t have to know what someone looks like or the course that their life has taken to want to see how they?ll react to a situation. Leonard instinctively understands this, and tells you only what you need to know ? you often don?t know a character is wearing a hat until he tips it, or carrying a gun until she pulls the trigger. Despite this, somehow their motivation is never in question ? Leonard has a way of letting you know why a character is doing something, even without spelling it out. It?s the art of a great story teller. This is as close as you?re going to get to ?reading? a film. If you?re a crime novel or a thriller fan in general and you?re yet to discover Elmore Leonard, this is the perfect way to start. Even if you?re not a fan of the genre, you might find out that you are by the end. And if you?ve ever wanted to write short stories, this is an object lesson in how to fit a lot into them. Here are several little tastes than don?t out
      stay their welcome, but tell as much story as needed, with style and a way that grips you. Start here and it?s doubtful you?ll look back. If you?re already a fan, this is an essential read, for the quality you?ve come to expect and the little looks at existing characters you?ll already know. Either way, £7.99 in the shops, or £6.39 from Amazon gets you one of the best reading experiences out there, and I can?t help but to recommend this to absolutely everyone!


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