Elmore Leonard Essay - Elmore Leonard Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis

Elmore Leonard Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis

Although Elmore Leonard became a published novelist with film credits within the Western genre, his lasting contribution to world culture will certainly be his crime fiction in the distinctive Leonard style—reticent, understated prose and evocative but understated descriptions—and the film adaptations of his works. The quality of Leonard’s storytelling is enhanced by the insights and complexities with which he invests his characters. Although he is known for his exact descriptions of Detroit and the sordid characters who populate industries from organized crime to filmmaking to the recording industry, Leonard is able to create characters who are white and male (Chili Palmer) as well as those that are black and female (Jackie Brown) and characters who are vulnerable males (Vince Majestyk) as well as indomitable females (Karen Sisco).


Hombre, acclaimed by the Western Writers of America as one of the best Westerns of all time, is important to the Leonard corpus for a number of reasons. Unlike later Leonard novels, which usually feature a third-person, omniscient narrator, this work is narrated by a minor character, Carl Allen. John Russell, a man of mixed white and American Indian heritage and raised by a band of Apache in Arizona, has liquidated a boardinghouse property and boarded a stagecoach, prepared to enter mainstream white society. However, he is literally shunned by the other passengers and forced to ride outside with Mendez, the Mexican driver.

When the stagecoach is attacked by outlaws, it is Russell’s ability with guns and his laconic assurance in the face of danger that saves the other stagecoach passengers, even as Russell sacrifices himself for the others, who may not be worthy of the gesture. Like many of Leonard’s later heroes and antiheroes, Russell is a man of action and few words. Although the film adaptation did not appear...

(The entire section is 782 words.)