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Hombre ()

Here is where I think it begins—with Mr. Henry Mendez, the Hatch & Hodges Division Manager at Sweetmary and still my boss at the time, asking me to ride the sixteen miles down to Delgado’s with him in the mud wagon. I suspected the trip had to do with the company shutting down this section of the stage fine; Mr. Mendez would see Delgado about closing his station and take an inventory of company property. But that was only part of the reason.

It turned out I was the one had to take the inventory. Mr. Mendez had something else on his mind. As soon as we got to the station, he sent one of Delgado’s boys out to John Russell’s place to get him.

Until that day John Russell was just a name I had written in the Division account book a few times during the past year. So many dollars paid to John Russell for so many stage horses. He was a mustanger. He would chase down green horses and harness-break them; then Mr. Mendez would buy what he wanted, and Russell and two White Mountain Apaches who rode for him would deliver the horses to Delgado’s or one of the other relay stations on the way south to Benson.

Mr. Mendez had bought maybe twenty-five or thirty from him during the past year. Now, I suspected, he wanted to tell Russell not to bring in any more since we were shutting down. I asked Mr. Mendez if that was so. He said no, he had already done that. This was about something else.

Like it was a secret. That was the trouble with Mr. Mendez when I worked for him. From a distance you could never tell he was Mexican. He never dressed like one, everything white like their clothes were made out of bedsheets. He didn’t usually act like one. Except that his face, with those tobacco-stained looking eyes and drooping mustache, was always the same and you never knew what he was thinking. When he looked at you, it was like he knew something he wasn’t telling, or was laughing at you, no matter what it was he said. That’s when you could tell Henry Mendez was Mexican. He wasn’t old. Not fifty anyway.

Delgado’s boy got back while we were having some coffee and said Russell would be here. A little while later we heard horses, so we went outside.

As we stood there seeing these three riders coming toward the adobe with the dust rising behind them, Mr. Mendez said to me, “Take a good look at Russell. You will never see another one like him as long as you live.”

I will swear to the truth of that right now. Though it was not just his appearance.

The three riders came on, but giving the feeling that they were holding back some, not anxious to ride right up until they made sure everything was keno. When Russell pulled up, the two White Mountain Apaches with him slowed to a walk and came up on either side of him. Not close, out a ways, as if giving themselves room to move around in. All three of them were armed; I mean armed, with revolvers, with cartridge belts over their shoulder and carbines, which looked like Springfields at first.

As he sat there, that’s when I got my first real look at John Russell.

Picture the belt down across his chest with the sun glinting on the bullets that filled most of the loops. Picture a stained, dirty looking straight-brim hat worn almost Indian-fashion, that is, uncreased and not cocked to either side, except his brim was curled some and there was a little dent down the crown.

Picture his face half shadowed by the hat. First you just saw how dark it was. Dark as his arms with the sleeves rolled above his elbows. Dark—I swear—as the faces of the two White Mountain boys. Then you saw how long his hair was, almost covering his ears, and how clean-shaved looking his face was. Right then you suspected he was more to those Apaches than a friend or a boss. I mean he could be a blood relation, no matter what his name was, and nobody in the world would bet he wasn’t.

When Mr. Mendez spoke to him you believed it all the more. He stepped closer to John Russell’s roan horse, and I remember the first thing he said.

He said, “Hombre.”

Russell didn’t say anything. He just looked at Mr. Mendez, though you couldn’t see his eyes in the shadow of his hat brim.

“Which name today?” Mr. Mendez said. “Which do you want?”

Russell answered Mr. Mendez in Spanish then, just a few words, and Mr. Mendez said, in English, “We use John Russell. No symbol names. No Apache names. All right?”
Fair Warning: this review will assume that you've read or seen Hombre and will pretty much start out with a spoiler if you haven't. Though not initially apparent, the book is a kind of gospel as written by a non-disciple. Imagine how strange Christ would have seemed if you only observed his story as his actual disciples abandoned him and you have something of the flavor of the tale. The Hombre, literally "man", (Ecce Homo) of the title is John Russell, white but taken by Apaches and raised by them until being rescued, but who chose to return to live with what his fellow whites considered savages. He has returned to "civilization" to try and determine whether he wishes to accept the inheritance left to him by his father (Father) in Bisbee, AZ. He travels on a stagecoach with the young narrator, Carl Allen; a young woman who has herself just been freed from tribal captivity; Henry Mendez, the Mexican manager of the coach company on his last trip; Dr. Alexander Favor, an Indian Agent, and his wife; and Frank Braden, a thug who takes away an ex-soldier's ticket for the trip.

En route, the other passengers' racism--his voluntary return to Indian ways having irreparably tainted him--results in Russell being ejected from the coach to ride up top with Mendez. But when several of Braden's cronies show up to rob Favor of the money he's embezzled, they quickly turn to Hombre for salvation. He saves the money and kills a couple of the robbers, but Mrs. Favor is taken, and now abandoned in the desert and stalked by the gang the rest are dependent on him to get them back to town alive. The problem is that, having been scorned by them, he shows little interest in their welfare and sets out on his own though he allows them to follow.

As Allen relates these events he struggles to understand the nature of their reluctant savior. He and the others have certain expectations of what Russell should do for them, but are wholly unwilling to take risks themselves. He, alone, should do the right thing apparently. Inevitably, the plot builds to the moment where a sacrifice will be required if the flock is to be saved. The bandits leave Mrs. Favor staked out in the sun and dying of thirst. In his final paragraphs, Allen tries to comprehend what he has witnessed:
You can look at something for a long time and not see it until it has moved or run off. That was how we had looked at Russell. Now, nobody questioned why he had walked down that slope. What we asked ourselves was why we ever thought he would not.

Maybe he was showing off a little bit when he asked each of us if we wanted to walk down to the Favor woman, knowing nobody would but himself.

Maybe he lest us think a lot of things about him that weren't true. But, as Russell would say, that was up to us. He let people do or think what they wanted while he smoked a cigarette and thought it our calmly, without his feelings getting mixed up in it. Russell never changed the whole time, though I think everyone else did in some way. He did what he felt had to be done. Even if it meant dying. So maybe you don't have to understand him. You just know him.

"Take a good look at Russell. You will see another one like him as long as you live." That first day at Delgado's, Henry Mendez said it all.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Elmore Leonard (3 books reviewed)
Elmore Leonard Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Elmore Leonard
    -AUTHOR SITE: Elmore Leonard
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Elmore Leonard (IMDB)
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Elmore Leonard (Harper Collins)
    -BOOK SITE: Elmore Leonard: Westerns: Last Stand at Saber River | Hombre | Valdez Is Coming | Forty Lashes Less One | eight short stories More, Edited by Terrence Rafferty (Library of America)
    -ENTRY: Elmore Leonard (Oklahoma Historical Society)
    -ENTRY: Elmore Leonard American author (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Elmore Leonard, Jr. (Encyclopedia of LA)
    -ENTRY: Elmore Leonard (Thrilling Detective)
    -ENTRY: Leonard, Elmore (
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: Elmore Leonard (NY Times Book Review)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard: The late author talks about his book Be Cool. Charlie Rose, 1999)
-TRIBUTE: My hero: Elmore Leonard: Leonard's many crime novels will find a lasting place in history because he knew how to make words sing (Philip Hensher, 23 Aug 2013, The Guardian)
    -TRIBUTE: David Simon pays tribute to Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) (David Simon, 24 Aug 2013, The Guardian)
    -OBIT: Elmore Leonard remembered by Peter Leonard (Peter Leonard, 13 Dec 2013, The Guardian)
    -OBIT: Elmore Leonard, American Author, Dead at 87 (Max Read, 08/20/13, Gawker)
    -TRIBUTE: Mr. Paradise (Jonathan Segura, August 22, 2013, Paris Review)
    -OBIT: Elmore Leonard obituary (Nick Kimberley, 20 Aug 2013, The Guardian)
    -OBIT: Acclaimed writer of distinctly tough crime novels who gained recognition late in life (Irish Times, Aug 24, 2013)
    -OBIT: Elmore Leonard, writer of sharp, colorful crime stories, dead at 87 (Todd Leopold and Joe Sterling, August 21, 2013, CNN)
    -OBIT: Elmore Leonard dies at 87; master of the hard-boiled crime novel (Dennis McLellan, Aug. 20, 2013, LA Times)
    -OBIT: Obituary: Elmore Leonard (BBC, 20 August 2013)
    -SHORT STORY: Three-Ten to Yuma
    -EXCERPT: First Chapter of Hombre
    -EXCERPTS: Elmore’s Opening Lines (Elmore Leonard, From All of the ’Em-1953-’05)
    -SHORT STORY: Ice Man (Elmore Leonard, Jun. 13th, 2012, The Atlantic)
    -PROFILE: Elmore Leonard Under the Boardwalk (J. Anthony Lukas, December 1984, GQ)
    -PROFILE: St. Elmore’s Fire (Mike Lupica, April 1987, Esquire)
    -INTERVIEW: The Writing Life with Elmore Leonard (Martin Amis, FEB. 1, 1998, LA Times)
Mr. Leonard has been compared to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald but disclaims any literary kinship. 'There's no similarity in style or subject matter,' he says. 'I was more influenced by Hemingway, Steinbeck, John O'Hara and James Cain.'

Of course, readers who have been following his recent books know it didn't happen overnight for this 58- year-old writer. Still, after making a living by his pen and wits for some three decades, Mr. Leonard says it's a nice feeling to be 'discovered.' 'Writing Novels, Not Mysteries'

'I think that I'm really writing novels, not mysteries, but I don't want to sound pretentious,' Mr. Leonard said. 'I do like to read that I write clean prose and that my stuff is considered economical. Maybe I'm economical because I don't have that much to say.' He paused. 'I'd love to have a real brilliant idea for my next book.'

    -INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard interview: 'I'm glad that I'm not a screenwriter. It would be so frustrating': On Tuesday 9 May 2006, to celebrate the release of his complete collection of Western stories, Elmore Leonard, one of the world’s most acclaimed and influential writers, was welcomed to the NFT to discuss his extraordinary career. (Adrian Wootton, 17 May 2017, BFI)
    -PROFILE: For Elmore Leonard, Crime Pays: After 30 years of near-obscurity, the prolific author is enjoying success at the typewriter and in Hollywood (DIANE SHAH, 2/28/1985, Rolling Stone)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard with S. J. Rozan: Crime Fiction (92nd ST Y, Aug 21, 2013)
    -PROFILE: Elmore Leonard: the great American novelist: Leonard is regarded as the greatest American crime writer, surpassing even Raymond Chandler. But it is time to drop the qualification of genre (Philip Hensher, 27 Jan 2012, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: The Hit Man: A Profile of Elmore Leonard (Jonathan Segura, Nov 12, 2010, Publishers Weekly)
    -PROFILE: The Crime Writer's Just Deserts : Elmore Leonard's Rave Reviews, Best Seller, Big Bucks (MIRIAM BERKLEY. Feb. 18, 1987, LA Times)
    -INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard’s Secret: “Clean Living, and a Fast Outfield”: Jon Wiener interviews Elmore Leonard (Jon Wiener, AUGUST 20, 2013, LA Review of Books)
    -INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard on 'Raylan' and 'Justified' : Elmore Leonard discusses the moral ambiguity of his protagonist, the struggle to make good guys as interesting as villains, and his thoughts on 'Justified,' the TV series based on his work (Erik Spanberg, 1/18/12, CS Monitor)
-ESSAY: Literary Battle: Elmore Leonard Versus Bruce Wagner (Chris Beck, 4/21/22, Splice Today)
    -ESSAY: The Elmore Leonard Starter Kit (Alex Belth, October 6, 2015, The Concourse)
    -ESSAY: ELMORE LEONARD'S GRITTY WESTERNS: Before Crime, Elmore Leonard Mastered the Western (NATHAN WARD, 5/16/18, Crime Reads)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Humane Vision of Elmore Leonard Westerns: Last Stand at Saber River, Hombre, Valdez is Coming, Forty Lashes Less One, by Elmore Leonard (Will Hoyt, 7/22/18, University Bookman)
    -ESSAY: HOW I HELPED ELMORE LEONARD RESEARCH GET SHORTY: Gregg Sutter Introduces an Excerpt from Leonard's Hollywood Novel (GREGG SUTTER, 8/30/16, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: CELEBRATING ELMORE LEONARD'S "RULES FOR WRITING": The master craftsman gave us more than just the 10 rules—and they're all good ones (DWYER MURPHY, 10/11/19, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: THE UNDERAPPRECIATED GENIUS OF 'JUSTIFIED': Crime, Family, and Land in Harlan County (LISA LEVY, 2/08/19, Crime Reads)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Elmore Leonard Story (Joan Acocella, SEPTEMBER 24, 2015, NY Review of Books)
    -INTERVIEW: Terrence Rafferty: Elmore Leonard’s West is “an idea of the West” (Library of America, June 8, 2018)
    -ESSAY: The Man with Five Names: Hombre on Race and the Cinematic Western (Korine Powers, 10 February 2020, Critical Essays on Elmore Leonard: If it Sounds Like Writing)
    -ESSAY: 10 Essential Elmore Leonard Novels: A Eulogy (RYAN PEVERLY AUGUST 23, 2013, Lit Reactor)
    -TRIBUTE: Elmore Leonard, Cowboy: The legendary crime novelist started out as an entirely different kind of writer. (Steven Malanga, August 21, 2013, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Don Winslow: The Time I Almost Made A Movie With Elmore Leonard (Don Winslow, April 6, 2020, Deadline)
    -ESSAY: Get Shorty at 30: Dennis Lehane on Elmore Leonard's Hollywood satire: The Dickens of Detroit wrote a string of classic thrillers, but this is the greatest of them all: a gimlet-eyed take on the movie business (Dennis Lehane, 26 Mar 2020, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: HOW ELMORE LEONARD REALLY WROTE HIS NOVELS—ACCORDING TO HIS CHARACTERS: "So he names us and he says okay start talking." (DWYER MURPHY, 10/09/20, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: The Elmore Leonard Paradox (Christopher Orr, Dec. 22nd, 2013, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: Elmore Leonard's split image (Charles J. Rzepka, 2013-10-11, Johns Hopkins University Press)
-ARCHIVES: Elmore Leonard (The Guardian)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: Elmore Leonard (You Tube)
    -ARCHIVES: Elmore Leonard (Crime Reads)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Elmore Leonard (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Elmore Leonard (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre by Elmore Leonard (Patrick T Reardon)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Michael Carlson, Irresistible Targets)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Ron Scheer, Buddies in the Saddle)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Evan Lewis, Davy Crockett's Almanack)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Randy Johnson, Not the Baseball Pitcher))
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Olman's Fifty)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Jeff Arnold's West)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Joshua Glenn, HiLoBrow)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Shared Universe Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (John Rabe, Off-Ramp)
    -REVIEW: of Hombre (Gary Dobbs, Tainted Archive)
    -REVIEW: of Elmore Leonard: Westerns (Erik Spanberg, CS Monitor)
    -REVIEW: of Elmore Leonard: Westerns (Will Hoyt, University Bookman)
The part of the Christian schema that appears to have intrigued Leonard most strongly, starting in 1959, is the doctrinally sound but often unexplored claim that Christ is a new Adam who, thanks to utter reliance on God the Father, lives without fear of death and consequently never lies. What would it be like, Leonard appears to be asking, to live like that? The explicitly Catholic aspect to Leonard’s developing anthropology reaches formal maturity in Touch, the novel about a stigmata-bearing healer that Leonard wrote after quitting alcohol in 1978, but the overall shape of the anthropology is already visible in this new Library of America collection of Westerns. “Ecce homo,” Leonard appears to be saying (in counterpoint to Nietzche!) when (in 1961) he names his novel about outcast John Russell Hombre. Russell, already an outcast because he is the child of an Apache father and a Caucasian mother, is strange for multiple reasons. He is fearless, for one thing. He plays, always, for mortal stakes, and he will not, under any circumstance, allow himself to be unjustly put down or used. At the same time, however, if Russell sees someone else suffering an injustice his default position is to not step in to right things in the wronged individual’s favor, because that would amount to robbing him or her of the chance to fight one’s own battle and so come into one’s own, as a person. If, on the other hand, an individual first shows mettle and then is attacked, Russell will (and does) lay down his own life to ensure that person’s continued freedom. Sounds a little like Socrates and perhaps another figure whose name I can’t quite remember.

    -REVIEW: of Elmore Leonard: Westerns (Lance Weller, NY Journal of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Elmore Leonard: Westerns (Allen Barra, Dallas Morning News)
    -REVIEW: of Elmore Leonard- Four Later Novels: Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Out of Sight, and Tishomingo Blue (The Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard (Anthony Rainone, January Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard (Frederick Zackel, January Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of La Brava by Elmore Leonard (Joshua Glenn, HiLoBrow)
    -REVIEW: of Glitz by Elmore Leonard (Stephen King, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard (Joshua Glenn, HiLoBrow)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard (LLOYD SACHS, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Raylan by Elmore Leonard (Mystery Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Raylan (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Anna Kirsch, International Crime Fiction Association)


    -FILMOGRAPHY: Elmore Leonard (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Hombre (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Hombre (Metacritic)
-ENTRY: Hombre film by Ritt [1967] (Lee Pfeiffer, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Hombre (film)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Martin Ritt (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Paul Newman (IMDB)
    -PHOTO ESSAY: Elmore Leonard's Career in Pictures: The prolific author, whose novels were adapted for "Out of Sight" and FX's "Justified," died on Aug. 20 due to complications from a stroke. THR takes a look back at the crime writer's film-adapted books and short stories. (Kyleen James 8/20/2013, Hollywood Reporter)
    -ESSAY: From Best To Worst: Elmore Leonard Movie Adaptations (Oliver Lyttelton, May 14, 2013, Indie Wire)
    -ESSAY: 60 Years of Elmore Leonard on Screen (Electric Lit, AUG 10, 2017)
    -ESSAY: WHICH ELMORE LEONARD ADAPTATION SHOULD YOU STREAM THIS WEEKEND?: Look at me...We're going to figure this out. (DWYER MURPHY, 5/26/23, Crime Reads)
-REVIEW ESSAY: In ‘Hombre’ and ‘Kid Blue,’ the Antiheroes Wear Stetsons and Ride Tall on a Rebellion Frontier (J. Hoberman|Aug. 21st, 2015, NY Times)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Elmore Leonard: An Appreciation (Howard Shrier, October 8, 2013, Critics at Large)
    -ESSAY: The Wild Westerns of Elmore Leonard: The late, great crime fiction author also made his mark in the western genre. (JOE LEYDON, APRIL 25, 2020, cOWBOYS & iNDIANS)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: 3:10 to Yuma: Curious Distances (Kent Jones, MAY 14, 2013, Criterion)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Roger Ebert)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Bosley Crowther, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Dennis Schwartz)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Larsen on Film)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Jeff Arnold's West)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Jake Hinkson, Criminal Element)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (It Rains...You Get Wet)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Native American)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Time Out)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Ruthless Reviews)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Radio Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Bob Reynolds, Arizona Daily Sun)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Mark Harris, Film Comment)
    -FILM REVIEW: Hombre (Crosby Day, Orlando Sentinel)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: THE RELATIONSHIPS WERE WHAT MADE 'JUSTIFIED' TRULY SPECIAL—THEY'RE WHY WE'RE STILL WATCHING TODAY: Over six seasons, 'Justified' explored the complex, twisted roots of Elmore Leonard's distinct vision of Harlan County. (KEITH ROYSDON, 4/02/21, Crime Reads)

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