Comfort to the Enemy, and other Carl Webster stories, by Elmore Leonard

IMG_0183Comfort to the Enemy is a book of two short stories and a novella, all focussing on Leonard’s character Carlos Webster, United States Marshall, and star of another Leonard novel, The Hot Kid.

This book starts with a short story recounting Webster’s first encounter with hoodlums in his teens and ends with the novella, Comfort to the Enemy, in which he, sort of, investigates a killing at a German prisoner of war camp in Oklahoma.

Carl is a Western archetypal ideal: taciturn, polite, smart and extremely gifted in the art of violence. He is strikingly similar to another Leonard character of a later era, Raylan Givens, the marshall protagonist of the glorious television series Justified, though with an altogether more settled family life – one could never imagine Carl’s upright and sympathetic father Virgil ever trying to kill him – and a less fraught relationship with booze.

The two short stories, Showdown at Checotah, and Louly and Pretty Boy, and the novella Comfort to the Enemy, are lovely exemplars of Leonard’s spare and laconic storytelling style, gently compelling, funny and exciting by turns. Great stuff!

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