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When the Women Come Out to Dance: Stories (Leonard, Elmore)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Elmore Leonard

What a treat! The nine stories in this collection--some never before published, others available only in anthologies or magazines-- demonstrate why Elmore Leonard has achieved both bestsellerdom and critical acclaim. Ranging in length from a four-page … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Elmore Leonard
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: William Morrow
1 review about When the Women Come Out to Dance: Stories...

Just The Good Parts

  • Sep 14, 2006
Rating:
+3
Elmore Leonard can write circles around most pulp fiction writers, but even the best writers struggle to fill novels successfully. You have to carry narratives for 300 pages, and even Leonard has produced his share of undernourished text. That is why his 2002 short story collection "When The Women Come Out To Dance" is so satisfying.

Calling them "short stories" is actually overselling them a bit; some are just sketches where very little of anything happens. A veteran rides into town and gets jawed at by some bigots. Two terminal cancer cases chat their way through what amounts to a first date. A woman answers questions about a house that she may or may not have burned down.

What makes these pieces readable and enjoyable is Leonard's way with dialogue, his ear for the clever quip disguised as an observation: "Girls named Kitty don't think much of becoming grandmothers."

Two stories stand out; the long ones "Fire In The Hole" and "Tenkiller." They aren't that long, about 60 well-spaced pages each, but they have the most involved plots and feature likeable characters who Leonard takes his time setting up. "Fire In The Hole" especially would make for a good movie, featuring the antics of a moronic gang of white supremacists who are being investigated by U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, one of several characters from earlier Leonard novels to appear here.

Also appearing here is Karen Sisco, previously seen in the book and movie "Out Of Sight," and here as the possibly romantic partner of a bank robber in the funny, touching "Karen Makes Out." It's funny how other characters you come across in these stories are described as resembling movie actors like Linda Fiorentino and Harry Dean Stanton, but no one mentions Jennifer Lopez, who actually played Karen in "Out Of Sight."

The other stories work to varying degrees. The two westerns, "The Tonto Woman" and "Hurrah For Capt. Early," felt thin to me, as did "Chickasaw Charlie Hoke," which presents us with a baseball player trying to get a job as a greeter at a casino. But all have their moments, and the weaker ones are over so quickly you hardly mind the dead spots.

In short, there's really nothing lost in the transition from Leonard the long-form writer to this, except for sentiment, which has never been the man's forte anyway. And you get a couple of short but satisfying reads in "Fire In The Hole" and "Tenkiller" which are up there with the best crime fiction Leonard has written.

"He could tell a story," is the last line in the last story here. It fits its author like a glove.

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