Previously unpublished Elmore Leonard short stories forthcoming

As if a piddling thing like dying last year is any kind of obstacle to a man of his stature – new material is forthcoming from the mighty Elmore Leonard in 2015. Well, ‘new’ – Weidenfeld & Nicolson is set to publish a single volume containing 15 of Leonard’s previously unavailable short stories dating from his tenure as a copywriter at a Detroit ad agency in the 1950s, around the time he first started writing novels and before he was earning enough to support himself from that latter pursuit. HarperCollins holds the US rights to the volume.

According to the New York Times, the stories are ‘set in locations from New Mexico to Malaysia’ and feature the first appearances of characters who would appear in Leonard’s later work.

Though Leonard would come to be known as a master of laconic crime fiction, his work from this period was predominantly westerns – the five novels he wrote whilst working at the ad agency all belong to the genre, and two of the short stories published during his time there, “Three-Ten to Yuma” and “The Captives”, were so well received as to be adapted for the big screen before the decade was over.

This would certainly seem to jibe with a New Mexico locale, and suggest a preponderance of westerns amongst the previously unpublished material – as do the 1958 short stories “The Trespassers” and “Confession”, themselves both westerns and first published last year by Byliner – but it’s intriguing to consider what Leonard could possibly have had his characters doing in Malaysia.

It wasn’t until the publication of Hombre in 1961 and his subsequent eight years off from writing novels that Leonard ditched the western as his preferred genre, re-emerging at the end of the 60s with The Big Bounce and launching the second and most fondly remembered phase of his career, as a master of impeccably cool crime writing. He did however latterly return to the western, after a fashion, in his novels about Kentucky U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens Pronto and Riding the Rap, which form the basis for the popular TV show Justified.

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