Friday, April 27, 2012

Bad Guys Beware: Valdez Is Coming!

Bob Valdez is a small-town constable who also rides shotgun for a stage coach company. He arrives home one Saturday afternoon to find that much of the town has gathered around a shack on the outskirts of town. The wealthiest man around--a Mr. Tanner--has identified a man he saw in town as an Army deserter and murderer. The accused has taken refuge in the shack along with his Indian woman who is pregnant.

Valdez attempts to defuse the situation but is forced to kill the accused man when one of the townspeople stupidly fires a shot and the accused man reacts by raising his gun against Valdez. Then Mr. Tanner says, "Oops, wrong guy!"

Valdez believes that the town and Mr. Tanner in particular should pay a little money to the Indian woman to compensate her for the loss of her man. But Mr. Tanner and virtually everyone else in town thinks that Indians are scum and that Valdez is an idiot for wanting to help her. Twice Valdez asks Mr. Tanner nicely for a little money. Each time Tanner refuses, the second time in somewhat spectacular fashion. The third time, Valdez will not ask politely. Valdez is coming, and the bad guys in his way had better start running for cover.

Elmore Leonard is much better known these days for his crime novels and for his work on the television show, "Justified." But he made his bones writing western novels, and this is an excellent example of his work in that genre. Bob Valdez is not as funny or as ironic as Raylan Givens, but he's just as compelling a character, and those who have enjoyed "Justified" and Leonard's other novels would probably enjoy this book as well.

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