Elmer Kelton Passes Away

Elmer_kelton I just learned the terrible, sad news that one of my favorite authors, legendary western novelist Elmer Kelton, passed away this morning. He's considered one of the greatest writers of westerns ever…in fact, he was named the number one western writer of all time by the Western Writers of America, which has honored him with seven Spur Awards for Best Novel. 

His best known work is probably THE GOOD OLD BOYS…thanks to the Tommy Lee Jones movie version… but his many memorable novels include THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED, THE SMILING COUNTRY, HONOR AT DAYBREAK, SLAUGHTER, THE DAY THE COWBOYS QUIT, and his "Texas Rangers" and "Sons of Texas" series. 

I don't think he ever got the credit and recognition he deserved outside of the western genre and that's a damn shame. His books weren't just great westerns…they were terrific novels by any measure. I was lucky enough to meet him once, a few years back, when he was in Los Angeles and found him to be a gracious, friendly, and funny man. He will be missed but I'm convinced that his work will continue to captivate, entertain, and enlighten readers for generations to come. 

UPDATE: Bill Crider,a top-notch western writer himself, remembers Kelton.

8 thoughts on “Elmer Kelton Passes Away”

  1. This news saddens me a great deal. Mr. Kelton was kind enough to read my graphic novel, WYATT EARP: THE JUSTICE RIDERS and give me a terrific blurb. Receiving such a kind and generous gesture from a writer I’ve admired since childhood was an honor I’ll never forget. Whenever I spoke to him on the phone, we said that it would be nice to meet in person one day; alas, that will never happen. A great writer–and a wonderful man–has left us. He will be missed.

  2. Thanks for this warm and thoughtful remembrance of Elmer Kelton. Some day soon, academics and critics will discover that he was a major American novelist. Now there are only two of those giants whose roots go back to pulp days: Max Evans and Bill Gulick.

  3. Hi Lee:
    Not being a reader of Westerns, I know nothing of Mr. Kelton. I’m sure he has made a great impact on a large number of people. My feeling has always been that each of us should strive to leave the earth a bit better than we found it. To me, if we’ve done that, then our purpose here was a positive one.

  4. I loved the guy. Through his books. I met him a couple of times and spent some great time with him. I will miss him terribly.

  5. Not all authors achieve fame or even success while they are still alive. This could be the case with Elmer Kelton. As an author myself I know the frustration and hard work that makes up the life of one dedicated to writing. D.S. Williamson

  6. I’ll never forget meeting Elmer Kelton. He was one of several Texas authors presenting at the 2005 TLA Convention in Austin, TX. After his delivery, I went up to tell him how much I enjoyed his presentation, and that my dad had always enjoyed his writing. My dad, who had passed away in 2004 had been a devoted follower of The Livestock Weekly. When I mentioned that, he asked, “Who was your dad?” I told him and he replied, “I knew Ben Boykin.” That simple statement meant everything to me–that my father was still remembered by someone besides his family members. He also remembered a way of life that is long gone. As a child born during the actual “Time it Never Rained”, I will miss the story teller who so astutely characterized that time and place.


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