“Valdez Is Coming” is a 1970 novel by Elmore Leonard. As with everything I’ve read by Leonard, the story is great and the writing is even better. Leonard must’ve had a different typewriter than the rest of us, because the words, the beautiful language, just seems to flow.
It’s a short book (my paperback copy has 160 pages), and it takes a while to understand what Leonard is trying to do. Valdez spends most of the first half of the book getting pushed around and taken advantage of, and there are only whispers of the man we see reborn for the second half of the book. At one point, I wondered if we ever would.
But when we do, especially with the reasons given in the first half of the book, reading about how Valdez unleashes his anger and skills is so much more enjoyable. The bad guy has absolutely no redeeming features, so it’s fun just to hate him and wait to see what Valdez will do, if he can. The ending is surprisingly not definitive, which makes it that much better.
Fans of the TV show “Justified” (which I very much am) will probably know the show is based on a 2001 Leonard story — “Fire in the Hole.” However, as you read through “Valdez Is Coming,” written 30 years before “Fire in the Hole,” you can see the seeds being planted, and much of what we read in “Valdez Is Coming” shows up in “Justified.” Well worth reading!