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Saturday, July 26, 2008

From Legends to Gunsights

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Before writing Gunsights in 1979, Elmore wrote a treatment for a western movie called Legends.  Two excerpts from the Legends treatment are reproduced below.  They were published in the book,  Give ‘em What They Want: The Right Way to Pitch Your Novel to Editors and Agents by Blythe Camenson, Marshall Cook.

Long before Elmore Leonard became one of North Americas most popular and prolific novelists, he wrote a treatment for a Western yarn he called Legends and tried to sell it to the movies. “I would write a book on spec.” he says. “but not a screenplay.” He had been immersing himself in Western lore and was able to write the treatment without much new research.

The treatment failed to sell as a film, but Marc Jaffe, an editor at Bantam Books, asked Leonard to do a Western novel, and Leonard used the Legends treatment to write the book. “Emmett Long” from the treatment became Dana Moon” in the book. “If I wrote any more Westerns.” Leonard explains. “I planned to use Emmett Long as a pseudonym.” Something he never did.

The treatment for Legends doubles as a synopsis, and a compelling one at that – a good plot in an authentic setting. rendered crisply and with a good dose of Leonard’s famous dialogue for flavor. It’s long, but it reads short. And it shows how you can turn the sawdust of a failed project into gold. Although Leonard uses past tense, we recommend that you use present tense for your synopses.

The Legends treatment is reproduced here.

 

 


Long before Elmore Leonard became one of North Americas most popular and prolific novelists, he wrote a treatment for a Western yarn he called Legends and tried to sell it to the movies. “I would write a book on spec.” he says. “but not a screenplay.” He had been immersing himself in Western lore and was able to write the treatment without much new research.

The treatment failed to sell as a film, but Marc Jaffe, an editor at Bantam Books, asked Leonard to do a Western novel, and Leonard used the Legends treatment to write the book. “Emmett Long” from the treatment became Dana Moon” in the book. “If I wrote any more Westerns.” Leonard explains. “I planned to use Emmett Long as a pseudonym.” Something he never did.

The treatment for Legends doubles as a synopsis, and a compelling one at that – a good plot in an authentic setting. rendered crisply and with a good dose of Leonard’s famous dialogue for flavor. It’s long, but it reads short. And it shows how you can turn the sawdust of a failed project into gold. Although Leonard uses past tense, we recommend that you use present tense for your synopses.

The Legends treatment is reproduced here.

TREATMENT FOR LEGENDS BY ELMORE LEONARD

Two riders came down out of the Sierra Madres and re-crossed the Rio Grande with their prisoner: a one-eyed renegade Nimbre Apache named Lobo, who had jumped the reservation at San Carlos and was said to have taken part in the White Tanks massacre. They brought in Lobo and a young white woman, Carla Wells, the Apache had been dragging along with him since White Tanks. (They said they had to keep the young woman away from Lobo or she would have caved his head in with a rock.) They set the young woman free, returning her to what was left of her family, and delivered Lobo to the military lockup at Fort Huachuca.

For their trouble, both men were kicked out of the Army.
Emmett Long-a stringy cowboy turned contract guide, who was accepted as a brother by his Apache trackers and could read sign right along with them-was fired on the spot.

Brendan Early-after ten years on frontier station. 2nd Lt. Of Cavalry (“the Dandy 5th”) and after telling the Department of Arizona what he thought of their candy-ass procedures–was forced to resign his commission.

They had gotten their man, but “without written authority to cross the border into Mexico to undertake an extended campaign… and without the necessary complement of troops.”

So there they were: loose, easygoing Emmett Long and Brendan Early, the long-haired swashbuckler, sitting in a saloon in Contention, Arizona, looking out at the desert. Em got talking to a man who was district superintendent for Hatch & Hodges, the stage line company, and found out they were expanding their services and needed a steady supply of fresh horses. So Em rounded up some of his White Mountain trackers and went into the horse business as a mustanger, halterbreaking green mounts and delivering them to the company’s line stations.

Bren Early tried organizing and guiding for hunting parties–taking rich Easterners out for a look at the Wild West and a chance to shoot big horn and mule deer. The trouble was, Bren’s temperament got in the way. He could stand hip-cocked and show them how to fan a six-shooter and keep a bean can jumping. But he didn’t have the patience to wait on tourists, no matter how much they paid him. So Bren quit the hunting guide business and went into holding up Hatch & Hodges stagecoaches. the same company that was supporting Emmett.

Bren was caught at it and sentenced to ten years of hard labor at a work camp out in the desert, where convicts lived in cages and busted rocks building roads to nowhere.

Em. in the meantime, had gotten something going with Carla Wells–the young lady they’d rescued–and finally married her. She was a cute little thing, but salty talking and with a hard bark on her. Yes, she’d marry Emmett. but she wasn’t going to live in any horse camp. She had him buy her a boarding house in Contention. That was where he could find her when he wasn’t out in the bleak lonesome busting his ass.

The spokesman for the Chicanos was a revolutionary type named Santana who was always bitching about something–the encroachment of the Indians–or looking for the Big Cause, some way he could be martyred.

The elder of the Black community was an ex-Tenth Cavalry sergeant named Billy Goss, who was an old friend of Emmett’s. The two of them liked to track up into high country for a few days at a time, hunt mule deer and drink whiskey and get away from their women.

Everything was going fine until the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed Emmett that he had to get his people down out of the mountains and back to the reservation.
What for? Nobody owned the land or was using it. But that’s where he was wrong. Dorado Mining had taken out leases on large tracts and they were going in there to dynamite and test for copper lodes.

Stilt, well let them test and if they didn’t find any copper then let them get their equipment out of there. No, the Bureau said, the Indians had to get back on the reservation anyway.

But what about all the other people living up there? Well, if they didn’t
clear out it was tough skit if somebody got hurt.  You know who the first one was to get it. Emilo Santana. He wouldn’t budge, took a bullet in the chest and died smiling.

Then the Black community was hit in a brutal raid that left several innocent people dead, including Billy Goss.

Emmett wired the Bureau, but they’d washed their hands of the situa-
tion, It was a local matter now, under the jurisdiction of the District Court. Emmett went to court, but what kind of suit could he file? His people were trespassing and the legal owners had the right to protect their property.

By this time, skirmishes were going on in the hills, both sides sniping at
each other, people getting killed. It became known in the press as the Dragoon Mountains War.

Next. Emmett rode to the Dorado Mining Company offices in Contention and asked to see the man in charge. When they told him to leave and tried to throw him out, he kicked the door down and there stood face-to-face with…

MISSING

...couple hundred hard cases and hoboes in Contention, fed and armed them,
and sent them up to kill that worrisome son of a bitch once and for all. Kill him or don’t come back.

Bren Early said goodbye to the good life and rode out an hour ahead of them-rode out of Contention as he had ridden out of Cairo, Illinois, twenty-two years ago, to join in the Indian Wars before they were over. What in the hell had he been sitting on the fence for when Emrnett was getting all the glory? What was important in life anyway?

Bren placed $500 in bets at the Gold Dollar that Emmett Long would never be shot dead nor taken alive.., left an envelope in the local newspaper office marked PRINT AT ONCE” and lashed a case of good bourbon to his pack animal in case Emmett had run out of corn.
The message the newspaper typesetter took out of the envelope and put on his machine said: $ 10.000 REWARD-DEAD OR ALIVE, and the name under it, specified in even bigger letters, BRENDAN EARLY.

Emmett welcomed Bren with a feeling of apprehension. He trusted him, but_ what was going on? What was Bren so tickled about if he’d come over to join the doomed? Emmett wondered if Bren had put himself in this fight-to-the-death situation for the sole purpose of regaining his self-respect. Was that how Bren looked at it? It gave Emmett a strange feeling. Like they were putting on a show just for Bren.

Emmett knew the mining company army was on its way. He’d already sent his scouts to act as decoys. to lure the ragtag army into a box canyon. Emment believed the plan had a slim chance of working and could save their lives if it did. But to lure them in so easily – he couldn’t believe it when the two hundred armed men, under some fool who thought he was a general, marched eagerly into the canyon and stood there under Emmett’s gun like they were anxious to be killed.

“A gesture,” Brendan said. “The company wants out, but they can’t do it with an egg on their face, so they send these rummies and drifters, thinking to smother you with numbers.”

 

 

 

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