Before he brilliantly traversed the gritty landscapes of underworld Detroit and Miami, Elmore Leonard wrote breathtaking adventures set in America's nineteenth-century western frontier-elevating a popular genre with his now-trademark twisting plots, rich characterizations, and scalpel-sharp dialogue.No author has ever written more evocatively of the dusty, gutsy heyday of the American West than Elmore Leonard. This complete collection of his thirty-one Western tales will thrill lovers of the genre, his die-hard fans, and everyone in between. From his very first story ever published-"The Trail of the Apache"-through five decades of classic Western tales, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard demonstrates the superb talent for language and gripping narrative that has made Leonard one of the most acclaimed and influential writers of our time.
Leonard rounds up all his Western stories from his debut writing effort, "The Trail of the Apache" and heads them out to a one-day laydown on November 30. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 13, 2009
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Excerpt from The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard by Elmore Leonard
Trail of the Apache
Original title: Apache Agent
Argosy, December 1951
UNDER THE THATCHED roof ramada that ran the length of the agency office, Travisin slouched in a canvas-backed chair, his boots propped against one of the support posts. His gaze took in the sun-beaten, gray adobe buildings, all one-story structures, that rimmed the vacant quadrangle. It was a glaring, depressing scene of sun on rock, without a single shade tree or graceful feature to redeem the squat ugliness. There was not a living soul in sight. Earlier that morning, his White Mountain Apache charges had received their two-weeks' supply of beef and flour. By now they were milling about the cook fires in front of their wickiups, eating up a two-weeks' ration in two days. Most of the Indians had built their wickiups three miles farther up the Gila, where the flat, dry land began to buckle into rock-strewn hills. There the thin, sparse Gila cottonwoods grew taller and closer together and the mesquite and prickly pear thicker. And there was the small game that sustained them when their government rations were consumed.
At the agency, Travisin lived alone. By actual count there were forty-two Coyotero Apache scouts along with the interpreter, Barney Fry, and his wife, a Tonto woman, but as the officers at Fort Thomas looked at it, he was living alone. There is no question that to most young Eastern gentlemen on frontier station, such an alien means of existence would have meant nothing more than a very slow way to die, with boredom reading the services. But, of course, they were not Travisin.
* * *
FROM WHIPPLE BARRACKS, through San Carlos and on down to Fort Huachuca, it went without argument that Eric Travisin was the best Apache campaigner in Arizona Territory. There was a time, of course, when this belief was not shared by all and the question would pop up often, along the trail, in the barracks at Fort Thomas, or in a Globe barroom. Barney Fry's name would always come up then ýthough most discounted him for his one-quarter Apache blood. But that was a time in the past when Eric Travisin was still new; before the sweltering sand-rock Apache country had burned and gouged his features, leaving his gaunt face deepchiseled and expressionless. That was while he was learning that it took an Apache to catch an Apache. So, for all practical purposes, he became one. Barney Fry taught him everything he knew about the Apache; then he began teaching Fry. He relied on no one entirely, not even Fry. He followed his own judgment, a judgment that his fellow officers looked upon as pure animal instinct. And perhaps they were right. But Travisin understood the steps necessary to survival in an enemy element. They weren't included in Cook's "Cavalry Tactics": you learned them the hard way, and your being alive testified that you had learned well. They said Travisin was more of an Apache than the Apaches themselves. They said he was cold-blooded, sometimes cruel. And they were uneasy in his presence; he had discarded his cotillion demeanor the first year at Fort Thomas, and in its place was the quiet, pulsing fury of an Apache war dance.