Elmore Leonard– The Old West of Lawmen and Outlaws

Arizona landscape from the hills above Fr. Huachuca, Wiki Commons

Arizona landscape from the hills above Fort Huachuca, Wiki Commons

Elmore Leonard wrote about the old west–Arizona Territory, 1860. His early short stories were about the Apache, cowboys, sheriff deputies, stage-coach drivers and, of course, gun-toting outlaws.

Three-Ten to Yuma, Dime Western Cover, Wiki Commons

Three-Ten to Yuma, 1953, Dime Western Cover, Wiki Commons

In 1953, Leonard was working as an advertising copywriter when he published “Three-Ten to Yuma” in Dime Western Magazine. The story opens with a deputy and his prisoner riding across the Arizona desert on their way to the prison in Yuma:

“He had picked up his prisoner at Fort Huachuca shortly after midnight and now, in a silent early morning mist, they approached Contention. The two riders moved slowly, one behind the other.

“Entering Stockman Street, Paul Scallen glanced back at the open country with the wet haze blanketing it flatness, thinking of the long night ride from Huachuca, relieved that this much was over. When his body turned again, his hand moved over the sawed-off shotgun that was across his lap and he kept his eyes on the man ahead of him until they were near the end of the second block, opposite the side entrance of the Republic Hotel.

“He said just above a whisper, though it was clear in the silence, ‘End of the line.’

Elmore Leonard died today; he was 87 years old. There is an excellent obituary in the New York Times.

The story Three-ten to Yuma was adapted to the screen (not once, but twice) and Leonard soon left his day job to begin writing full-time, and he never stopped. The world is richer for his work; he left a rich legacy to us all.

You can read the original story in The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, 2004.


About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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