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on February 23, 2004
I should qualify this review with the warning that this is my first experience reading Elmore Leonard. I cannot tell fans of his other 39 books and assorted screenplays how this compares with his general body of work. I can tell you how it stands on its own.
This is an interesting, varied collection of nine short stories. While all share a world where alcohol is a constant undercurrent and the characters have all seen better days, they are quite distinct from one another. There is a has-been baseball player working against himself for a chance at a decent job, two cancer patients connecting in a Florida retirement community, a former stripper trying to "lose" an abusive husband, an African American veteran of the Civil and Spanish American Wars facing racism, a cattle rustler trying to help a woman he finds abandoned on a remote outpost, a lawman returning to his hometown to rout someone he had known in his youth who is now leading a neo Nazi militia, and a Hollywood stuntman returning to his Oklahoma roots to reclaim the family ranch from thugs and exorcise the family curse at the same time. There is a Karen Sisco episode, too, featuring the US marshall character currently the subject of a television series.
Some of the stories read like sketches or treatments for screenplays. The Sisco story stands on its own, though it could easily have been a subplot from a novel or the television show. I thought the western stories were the most fully realized. All of the fictions turn on whether the good guy gets what he/she wants. The storytelling is of the cinematic variety, hinging on action riddled with reversals. Leonard uses words economically and every single one is well chosen, strong, vivid. In an era when typos and editing slips mar too many books, this edition (hardcover at least) is free of them and is also assembled with an attractive lay-out design.
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on November 17, 2003
Reading this book is a little like being in the Marvel Universe. Here we find characters from other Leonard novels. Karen Sisco from Out of Sight and the TV show is here. We find a preamble to Tishomingo Blues. Carl Webster, whom Leonard fans may recognize, is here as well.
I go back to Leonard whenever I wish to be reminded how to craft a good story. For anyone unfamiliar with Leonard's work, this is a good introduction. We get a good display of his range here. There is a western story, a story set in a retirement home, and oh yes, stories about criminals. Nobody writes stupid characters better than Elmore Leonard. These stories are funny, brutal, and quite enjoyable.
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on February 3, 2003
Imagine nine pieces of the best candy you've ever eaten. You try to take your time, but find you eat them much too quickly. They are gone too soon. You wish there were more. And marvel at the skill of the candymaker.
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on January 21, 2003
Will somebody please let me know when a better writer than Elmore comes along? The short story is a difficult vehicle to create and resolve a mystery, yet the form proves no impediment for Mr. Leonard. In fact, next to some of his novels, I'd say less is more. The snappy dialogue, the characters'charisma, the heightened situations are all notable stylistic trademarks of Mr. Leonard. He does not let the reader down. I only wish there were another dozen stories to calm my greed for more.
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on January 12, 2003
Elmore Leonard has been called "the greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever" and "a contemporary Dashiell Hammett." The author of more than three dozen books, including Tishomingo Blues, Pronto, Riding the Rap, Out of Sight, Rum Punch, and Get Shorty, Leonard is a Grand Master Award winner of the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.,. a suburb of Detroit.
When the Women Come Out to Dance, Leonard's second collection of short stories (the first was The Tonto Woman & Other Western Stories), features nine cut-to-the-chase adventures populated by one-dimensional characters.
The British philosopher Bertrand Russell, in a reductionist mood, suggested that only one thing is necessary for a person to be happy: "How can you fail to enjoy life so long as the glands are in good working order? That is the only secret."

The characters in When the Women Come Out to Dance should be quite happy, for they are obsessed with glands (instant sex on demand) and guns (whether six-shooters or shotguns). Reeking with sex and violence, the stories deal with hot-blooded characters eager to "make love" and "make war."
Two of the best stories are also the longest: "Fire in the Hole" (56 pages) describes a cell of racist skinheads in Harlan County, Kentucky, and "Tenkiller" (60 pages) describes a family of white-trash squatters In Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The remaining seven tales average 16 pages each.
Here's a sample paragraph from "Fire in the Hole": "Gator teeth, spiked hair dyed blond and a tattoo on his chest, part of it showing the way his shirt hung open. He stood there looking Raylan over before saying, 'Who in the hell are you, the undertaker?'"
Leonard, whose no-nonsense style of writing reminds one of Hemingway, believes that authors should go easy on the adverbs (never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"); keep their exclamation points under control; never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose"; never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue; use regional dialect, patois, sparingly; avoid detailed descriptions of characters; and don't go into great detail describing places and things.
All of this is well and good, if one wants to make short shrift of psychological development and philosophical depth. While Leonard's stuff is tailor-made for guts-gonads-and glory films, his characters are one-dimensional and without soul.
Reading this book is a lot like eating cotton candy: tasty but without substance. If action fluff is your cup of tea (or confection), by all means read and enjoy. But if you're looking for quality literature that is enduring rather than ephemeral, better skip this one.
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on January 1, 2003
If you are a fan of Elmore Leonard's novels, you will enjoy this collection. In his novels, the essence of the characters is revealed by what they say and how they say it. In these short stories, the essence of the characters is distilled further by the length of the stories. This gives the stories a delicious pithiness. Plus, as an added bonus, Leonard is as hilarious as usual. Bravo.
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on January 1, 2003
Others have already sung the praises of most of the stories in this collection. I want to correct an oversight. A fourteen- page story, The Tonto Woman, may be one of the very few perfect short stories. My reaction on reading it was that only one short story (whose title escapes me) by Hemingway could equal it in terms of creating another world with completely believable characters, setting and Leonard's impeccable dialogue. If reading can be transporting, then this slim fourteen pages has taken me further than I've been before in a book.
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on December 21, 2002
Though tired plot thread weave through most of the nine stories (e.g. avenging abusive men, dumb redneck badguys and showdowns complete with deadlines to get out of town), the combination of familiar old characters cast in new settings and a few brand new heroes cut from similar cloth makes a great package. A hilarious prequel to 'Tishomingo Blues' shows how Chickasaw Charlie Hoke got Billy Darwin to hire him as a greeter and side show for his new casino. Raylan Givens the cowboy marshal from 'Pronto' is back now going after a bunch of neo Nazi skinheads including Boyd, an old high school buddy who worked in the Harlan County coal mines with him years before. Raylan is as tough as Wyatt Earp's legend and as cool as Chili Palmer. With a sexy lady named Ava in the middle Boyd tells Raylan he'll do to him what Raylan did to the Italian mob guy at the end of 'Pronto'. Of course, Raylan's still standing at the end.
Karen Sisco's back and better than ever. An arrogant FBI guy tells her the new boyfriend Carl she just got it on with has been robbing banks. She doesn't want to believe it, but when Karen finds out what's going on Carl doesn't stand a chance. George Clooney can play Carl in the movie, but this Karen is way too cool for J Lo.

A black Spanish American War veteran named Bo Catlett is getting guff from a bigoted redneck whose brother was killed in the war. I missed the connection to the character of the same name in 'Get Shorty', though there has to be one. After a few historical corrections as to how good the RoughRiders really were, it builds to a showdown where Bo points his saber at the redneck inviting him to go for his gun.
On top of all this Leonard saves the best for last with the story of Ben Webster, fourth generation of family that owns an Oklahoma ranch. Ben is an ex rodeo cowboy now Hollywood stuntman back in Oklahoma to check on things. His senile caretaker leased part of the property to a life long criminal white trash father and his two sons. It sets up one final showdown with the Leonard hero, his new love interest and the dumber than dirt badguys. Ther's nothing new about a Leonard bad guy going off a balcony or a stuntman diving off a roof into the hotel pool, but it still adds life to the story and evokes memories of prior Dutch classics. I hope there's more of Ben Webster in Leonard's future.
One word of caution about the audiobook: Taye Diggs is absolutely the worst in a long line who have read Elmore Leonard books. He actually makes Chickasaw Charlie and Karen Sisco sound like black street dudes.
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on November 24, 2002
"When The Woman Comes Out To Dance, by Elmore Leonard is an entertaining collection of nine short fiction stories. Each a gem in their own right, but my personal favorite happens to be the title of this book -- Mrs. Mahmood gets more than she ever dreamed possible as she and her maid conspire to end her unhappy marriage. The characters are believable and most entertaining. A delightful combination.
Writer Leonard has an unparalleled reputation among lovers of suspense and intrigue. An excellent writer of numerous screenplays, my personal favorite, "Get Shorty."
"When The Woman Comes Out To Dance" could very-well be the "Next Box Office Smash Hit!"
John Savoy
Savoy International
Motion Pictures Inc.
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