Byliner publishes two early Elmore Leonard stories

Elmore Leonard died in August at the age of 87. But writing can bring a kind of immortality, and the modern noir master has come to life, again, in the form of two new short stories.

Today, the San Francisco-based digital imprint Byliner publishes "Confession" and "The Trespassers," both of which were written in 1958 when Leonard was an ad man working at a Detroit agency, Campbell Ewald. 

"What's interesting is to see where Elmore Leonard, the young writer, started, to study his simple Hemingway-influenced style," Peter Leonard, Elmore Leonard's son, said in a Byliner press release. "Fans of Elmore's work will appreciate how his style changed and evolved over a career spanning sixty years."

The two stories (available by subscription) feel like transitional pieces between Leonard's Western and contemporary noir phases: Both tell gritty crime tales set in small-town Western settings.

The protagonist of "Confession" is a soft-spoken, whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking priest who mingles with cowboys and stagecoach drivers at a local saloon. "When two saddlebags filled with cash mysteriously appear on the steps of Father Schwinn’s church, he finds himself caught up in a crime that puts his vows of nonviolence to the test," Byliner said in a release.

"The Trespassers" begins as a domestic drama told from the point of view of a young woman, Chris, who is frustrated with her mild-mannered husband, Evan. "When Evan refuses to confront men who are illegally hunting on the couple’s remote homestead, Chris takes matters into her own hands, with terrifying results," according to the Byliner summary.

Later, Leonard moved the settings of his stories to the urban worlds of Detroit and South Florida. Leonard, who died from complications caused by a stroke, was working on his 46th novel at the time of his death.

The stories are also available as Kindle Singles at Amazon, at Apple’s iBookstore, at Barnes and Noble's website and from Kobo.

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

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