Thursday, March 2, 2017

FFB: Three-ten to Yuma by Elmore Leonard

Recently, my friend, Prashant, who blogs at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, posted a piece about the 2007 movie, “3:10 to Yuma.” The film is a remake of a 1957 movie with the same title. Both are based on a story by Elmore Leonard.

While I have read many of Leonard’s contemporary crime novels, I have read few of his Westerns. I went in search of a copy of this one and found it is not a novel. Elmore Leonard’s “Three-ten to Yuma,” is a fairly short, short story – about 17 pages, in the hard cover collection of Leonard’s Western stories called, The Tonto Woman.

The two movies beefed up the back-story and tacked on motivations that are not present in the short story. In Leonard’s version, first published in Dime Western Magazine in 1953, Paul Scallen is a deputy sheriff in Arizona tasked with getting outlaw Jim Kidd from Tucson to the Yuma Territorial Prison, near the border of California. To transport him the roughly 250 miles, Scallen will escort Kidd on a train leaving at 3:10 in the afternoon.

He and the prisoner arrive in Tucson just before dawn and wait in a hotel room until it is time to walk down to the railroad station. While waiting, word gets out that Kidd is in the hotel, and members of his gang arrive in town and wait for him and the lawman to come out into the open.

Elmore Leonard’s tough, lean tale holds up as model of good storytelling, quickly setting up the situation, providing just enough background, building tension and bringing the tale to its violent conclusion.

Although the date is not stated, the story takes place between 1876 and 1909. Those were the years the Yuma prison was in operation. It was closed when a new prison was built and is today a museum.

(For more posts on books, please visit Patti Abbott’s blog.)


  1. I've read this one years ago and think I've seen both film versions. I'm a bit of a completist when it comes to Elmore. Valdez is Coming - is probably the Western I remember the most by him.

    1. Col – I have a lot of catching up to do with Leonard’s Westerns.

  2. Saw both flicks--well done, I thought. Missed Leonard's story. Shame on me! Better late than never, I'm hoping. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Mathew – It is a good one. So are the other stories in THE TONTO WOMAN. My next Leonard book will be VALDEZ IS COMING, based on Col’s recommendation.

  3. I'm hosting FFB this week.

    A solid issue of DIME WESTERN:
    Dime Western Magazine [v63 #2, March 1953] (Popular Publications, Inc., 25¢, pulp)
    Details supplied by Tom Daniels.
    6 · In the Saddle · [The Editor] · cl
    8 · Custer’s First Stand · Frederic James · ar
    10 · Montana Man! · George C. Appell · nv
    26 · Eight’s a Crowd · M. Kane · ms
    27 · Three-Ten to Yuma · Elmore Leonard · ss
    37 · Tailor-Made Cows · Allan K. Echols · ar
    38 · Gunsmoke Market · William E. Cook · nv
    50 · The Hunter and the Hunted · Van Cort · ss
    60 · Somebody Dies Tonight! · Dane Gregory · ss
    70 · Killers Wait in Gunlock! · H. A. DeRosso · nv

    And not too long before his death, Leonard saw published a complete collection of his sort western fiction...

    1. Thanks, Todd, for guest hosting FFB, and for providing the magazine’s contents. Along with Leonard, I see DeRosso was in that issue. I recently caught up with some of his short stories. Good stuff.

  4. Thank you very much, Elgin — very kind of you. I'm looking forward to watching the original soon and also reading Elmore Leonard's short story. I haven't read any of his Westerns though I liked his other writing immensely. He was the master of dialogue in noir and crime fiction.

  5. I have never read a Western. But this story seems interesting. Is it available online?