September 11, 2009

When the Women Come Out to Dance

When the Women Come Out to Dance: StoriesTitle : When the Women Come Out to Dance
Author : Elmore Leonard
Reading Dates : 10 Sep - 12 Sep 2009

About the Author.
Elmore Leonard, born in 1925 in New Orleans is the author of a number of novels which have been transformed into films. Most notable of these includes Get Shorty starring John Travolta, Danny DeVito and Rene Russo and Out of Sight starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. American novelist and screenwriter, Elmore John Leonard, started by publishing westerns and went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers. Elmore Leonard's LaBrava was named Edgar Allan Poe Award's best mystery novel in 1983 and in 1992 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

Book Summary of When the Women Come Out to Dance.
When the Women Come Out to Dance is a collection of short stories from Elmore Leonard published in 2002. The story from which the book takes its title from tells of Mrs Mahmood who hires a personal maid Lourdes with the intention of getting her to help in disposing of her rich husband. Mrs Mahmood, a former stripper gets her wish and more besides. She gets to play house with her new Colombian friends.

The first story Sparks includes a twist in the ending when an insurance investigator advises a house owner to proceed with her claims rather than report her for arson and fraud after listening to her reasons for burning down her house.

My favourite story however is Tenkiller, the last in the book. It is about Ben Webster, former world champion bull rider and stuntman who returns to his hometown after the recent death of his live-in girlfriend. Upon returning home, Ben finds himself in a confrontation with a family of thugs who have taken over his home. Ben who calls himself Tenkiller in his movies also finally realizes that the girl he has always loved is Denise, a former schoolmate.

Other stories of interest are Karen Makes Out, Hurrah for Capt. Early and The Tonto Woman. Karen Makes Out's protagonist is Karen Sisco, whom some may recognize as the female lead in the movie Out of Sight and the television series, Karen Sisco. Hurrah for Capt. Early tells a tale of racial prejudice with 2 soldiers, Captain Early and Sergeant Major Bo Catlett, just returned from the war in Cuba in 1898. In The Tonto Woman, a would-be cattle thief teaches the abandoned wife of the man he is going to steal from how to live life on her own terms.

Book Review of When the Women Come Out to Dance.
The only story I truly enjoyed in this collection is Tenkiller. It isn't that the other stories were uninteresting or boring, just that the style of writing was not to my personal taste. Often I found the telling rather puzzling or abrupt. Perhaps the fault lies in the difference of culture with my not having a grasp on the American Southern or Western culture ? In most of the stories, I found the characters behaviour, attitudes or conversation with each other simply strange. Take the second tale of Hanging Out at the Buena Vista for instance. A man and a woman who have just met, only needs 1 conversation to decide they like each other and move in together. While both protagonists are dying, I still cannot help but wonder at the decision. What was the attraction between them ? Tenkiller on the other hand I understand. Its almost similar in tone to some of the American Wild West movies I used to watch as a child. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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