Before he brilliantly traversed the gritty landscapes of underworld Detroit and Miami, the incomparable 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.
There is a moment when obsession, rage, and destiny come together at the end of a shotgun barrel—when wrongs, actual or perceived, are addressed with violence, and the awesome power of life or death rests in a trigger finger. In seven magnificent stories of sins, crimes, conscience, and savage retribution, the New York Times-bestselling master carries us back to an untamed time and place where a simple transgression most often proved fatal . . . and the only true justice lived in the hands of the gunman.
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About the Author
Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.
Hometown:Bloomfield Village, Michigan
Date of Birth:October 11, 1925
Place of Birth:New Orleans, Louisiana
Education:B.Ph., University of Detroit, 1950
Read an Excerpt
Moment of Vengeance and Other Stories
By Elmore Leonard
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Elmore Leonard
All right reserved.
Law of the Hunted Ones
Patman saw it first. The sudden flash of sun on metal; then, on the steepness of the hillside, it was a splinter of a gleam that hung unmoving amidst the confusion of jagged rock and brush. Just a dull gleam now that meant nothing, but the first metallic flash had been enough for Virgil Patman.
He exhaled slowly, dropping his eyes from the gleam up on the slanting wall, and let his gaze drift up ahead through the narrowness, the way it would naturally. But his fists remained tight around the reins. He muttered to himself, "You damn fool." Cover was behind, a hundred feet or more, and a rifle can do a lot of pecking in a hundred feet.
The boy doesn't see it, he thought. Else he would have been shooting by now. And then other words followed in his mind. Why do you think the boy's any dumber than you are?
He shifted his hip in the saddle and turned his head halfway around. Dave Fallis was a few paces behind him and to the side. He was looking at his hands on the flat dinner-plate saddle horn, deep in thought.
Patman drew tobacco and paper from his side coat pocket and held his mount in until the boy came abreast of him.
"Don't look up too quick and don't make a sudden move," Patman said.He passed the paper along the tip of his tongue, then shaped it expertly in his bony, freckly fingers. He wasn't looking at the boy, but he could sense his head come up fast. "What did I just tell you?"
He struck a match and held it to the brown paper cigarette. His eyes were on the match and he half-mumbled with the cigarette in his mouth, "Dave, hold on to your nerve. There's a rifle pointing at us. Maybe two hundred feet ahead and almost to the top of the slope." He handed the makings across. "Build yourself one like it was Sunday afternoon on the front porch."
Their horses moved at a slow walk close to the left side that was smooth rock and almost straight up. Here, and as far as you could see ahead, the right side slanted steeply up, gravel, rock and brush thrown violently together, to finally climb into dense pines overhead. Here and there the pines straggled down the slope. Patman watched the boy put the twisted cigarette between his lips and light it, the hand steady, up close to his face.
"When you get a chance," Patman said, "look about halfway up the slope, just this side of that hollow. You'll see a dab of yellow that's prickly pear, then go above to that rock jam and tell me what you see."
Fallis pulled his hat closer to his eyes and looked up-canyon before dragging his gaze to the slope. His face registered nothing, not even a squint with the hat brim resting on his eyebrows. A hard-boned face, tight through the cheeks and red-brown from the sun, but young and with a good mouth that looked as if it smiled most of the time, though it wasn't smiling now. His gaze lowered to the pass and he drew on the cigarette.
"Something shining up there, but I don't make out what it is," he said.
"It's a rifle, all right. We'll take for granted somebody's behind it."
"Not if the piece is so clean it shines," Patman answered. "Just keep going, and watch me. We'll gamble that it's a white man -- and gamble that he acts like one."
Fallis tried to keep his voice even. "What if he just shoots?" The question was hoarse with excitement. Maybe the boy's not as scared as I am, Patman thought. Young and too eager to be afraid. You get old and take too damn much time doing what kept you alive when you were young. Why keep thinking of him, he thought, you got a hide too, you know.
Patman answered, "If he shoots, we'll know where we stand and you can do the first thing that comes to your mind."
"Then I might let go at you," Fallis smiled, "for leading us into this jackpot."
Patman's narrow face looked stone-hard with its sad smile beneath the full mustache. "If you want to make jokes," he said, "go find someone else."
"What're we going to do, Virg?" Fallis was dead serious. It made his face look tough when he didn't smile, with the heavy cheekbones and the hard jawline beneath.
"We don't have a hell of a lot of choices," Patman said. "If we kick into a run or turn too fast, we're likely to get a bullet. You don't want to take a chance on that gent up there being the nervous type. And if we just start shooting, we haven't got anything to hide behind when he shoots back."
He heard the boy say, "We can get behind our horses."
He answered him, "I'd just as soon get shot as have to walk home. You got any objections to just going on like we don't know he's there?"
Fallis shook his head, swallowing. "Anything you say, Virg. Probably he's just out hunting turkeys. . . ." He dropped behind the older man as they edged along the smooth rock of the canyon wall until there was ten feet between their horses.
They rode stiff-backed, from habit, yet with an easy looseness of head and arms that described an absence of tension. Part of it was natural, again habit, and part was each trying to convince the other that he wasn't afraid. Patman and Fallis were good for each other. They had learned it through campaigning.
Now, with the tightness in their bellies, they waited for the sound. The clop of their horses' hooves had a dull ring in the awful silence. They waited for another sound.
Excerpted from Moment of Vengeance and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard Copyright © 2006 by Elmore Leonard. Excerpted by permission.
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