Saturday, January 15, 2011

3:10 to Yuma

"3:10 to Yuma"
by Elmore Leonard
narrated by Henry Rollins
Harper Audio
33 minutes

There are short stories, novellas, full novels and, epic tomes that, regardless of length, spark the imagination and become something greater then themselves through the people who interpret them. The interpreters can be like the daydreaming boys who imagines themselves in the dust, high-noon drama and clear-cut morality of a time when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats or; the interpreters could be like the screenwriters who see the written work as the foundation for great visual mediums or; the interpreters could even be someone like me, who's not well versed in Westerns but was intrigued by the iconic stature of the work and open to experiencing a moment in another time and place. "3:10" to Yuma" is a short story written by Elmore Leonard, the same writer who wrote the fun crime fictions Get Shorty and Out of Sight. "3:10 to Yuma" is about a deputy, Dan Evans, from Bisbee, AZ, who is responsible for transporting a convicted felon, Ben Wade, to prison. He just needs to get his charge from the hotel to the train. That's it; but that's enough. In a half hour, Elmore Leonard draws strong imagery and characterizations without a wasted word anywhere. The scene is set primarily in a hotel room where the two principals wait for the train. The room is full of tension, of possibilities, of the certainties that each of the men carries, even knowing that in the end, only one will prevail. Their personalities are drawn out by their words and actions, both of which are sometimes small and subtle and, other times heart stoppingly dramatic.

The story is narrated by Henry Rollins, a respected spoken word performer and actor. But I've only really ever known him as the lead singer to a hard-core punk band in the 1980s (Black Flag) that I loved and so I wasn't sure what to expect. He was a little fast off the start to the story; but overall he delivered a fine performance, clear and sympathetic to the text. Thankfully, he did not drop into any sort of Western drawl OR scream out in anarchistic angst, instead speaking in a voice that sounds remarkably smooth and young; but with just enough of an edge or roughness to make it perfect.

3:10 to Yuma
Directed by Delmar Daves
Starring Glenn Ford (as Ben Wade) and Van Hefin as Dan Evans)
Columbia Pictures (1957)
Sony Home Entertainment (2007)

This film adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story is roughly an hour and a half long, so you know that quite a bit had to have been added to the original story and there was, most notably back story and women. The back story involves providing the motivation for the deputy for doing his job, as well as action sequences that get all the players into place for the big scene at the hotel and railroad station. It's all good, nothing that violates the spirit of the original story; but it must be noted that by expanding the original story, they've created a new mythos surrounding "3:10 to Yuma." Now the chemistry between the two men is emphasized as opposed to the push-pull dynamic of the original short and audience members are given reason to expect that either of the two could change.

3:10 to Yuma
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Russell Crowe (as Ben Wade) and Christian Bale as Dan Evans)
Lionsgate and, Tree Line Films

It would be more fair to say that the 2007 film adaptation was based on the 1957 version rather than the original short story. That said, even though many elements of the 1957 movie were preserved, the differences are manifest and significant. The whole of the story has been embroidered with more historical context to include, but certainly not limited to, Pinkerton men, Apache Native Americans, Chinese workers, railroad expansion and, Civil War histories to the characters. The story as played out in the crucible of the hotel room has been moved across more varied terrain, allowing shared experience to forge a bond between the two men. The emphases is clearly centered on a sense of realism rather than the abstracted setting in the short story or the Hollywood set of the 1957 film. But most importantly, the nature of the relationship between the two men has changed into a much more personal one than the previous iterations would suggest, a relationship wherein at least one of them changes rather dramatically.

Other Stuff: I picked this audio because I wanted a story set in Arizona for the
Where You Reading? Challenge. I had recalled seeing "3:10 to Yuma" in a local Barnes & Noble and thought the title would be perfect. It wasn't until I dnloaded the title from that I realized it was a short story; but I'm running with it anyway because in this case, size doesn't matter. This title also qualifies for BethFishRead's challenge, What's in a Name Challenge #4, in the "number" category (read a book with a number in the title.) I also wanted to move a little out of my comfort zone and listen to a Western. I rented both movies from Netflix (

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  1. Thank you so much for suggesting this audiobook. I love Henry Rollins.

  2. Fine review, DEC. I don't know if anyone ever sought the opinion of Mr. Leonard when that remake came out in '07. I'm fairly certain he wouldn't thought much of it given that the author thought 1957 classic was way too overblown. I remain a fan of Leonard's short and Delmar Daves' film (he framed some beautiful b&w scenes and Glenn Ford was never better than when he played the rare villain role). Thanks, DEC.

  3. Terrific review! I enjoyed both movies and will look for the original short story audio at the library. I don't think I've read any Elmore Leonard.

  4. Love it - and keeping this one in mind if I need an Arizona for my map! :)

    I posted today a linky where participants can add there January recaps on this challenge.