Picks and Pans Review: When the Women Come Out to Dance

updated 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Elmore Leonard

If Leonard were a new kid instead of a past master, this fiction collection would make his name. The stories are like eight great little movies (and one clinker): Tarantino-esque crime tales, one western and one that deftly sketches how black soldiers "saved Colonel Teddy's ass" at the battle of San Juan Hill. The best two are midlife homecoming tales packing romance, suspense and Get Shorty-style crime farce. In one, "Tenkiller," a Hollywood stuntman returns to Oklahoma to reheat an old high school flame nicknamed "Denise the piece" and roust some thugs. "Fire in the Hole" takes U.S. marshal Raylan Givens home to Kentucky, where a guy he used to dig coal with leads a fascist gang. Neo-Nazis are usually stick figures, but Leonard makes you grasp their motives at every tense moment. His cinematic juggling of parallel scenes works better in longer stories, but in these fictional wind sprints, he also manages to come in first. (Morrow, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Great shorties

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