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Read the book; watch the show
on February 11, 2012
Raylan Givens appeared in the short story, Fire in the Hole, and as a secondary character in two novels, Pronto and Riding the Rap, but Raylan is the first novel in which the Marshal plays a lead role. Of course, the character might be best known as the main character in the excellent TV series, Justified, created by Graham Yost (Speed).
Justified is actually based on Fire in the Hole, which is also the title of the pilot episode. The set up is simple: Raylan Givens is a U.S. Marshal, reassigned to the local office of his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, after a questionable shooting in Miami. In Harlan, he is forced to reconnect with childhood friends, many of whom have turned to a life of crime.
According to Leonard, it was Timothy Olyphant, star of Justified, who suggested the author might want to consider writing further short stories featuring Raylan Givens. Leonard took the actor's advice, producing Raylan, not so much a collection of short stories or a self-contained novel, as a trio of Justified episodes in prose form.
Fans of the show will recognize many characters, including Boyd Crowder (played in the series by the fantastic Walton Goggins), Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), and the Crowe clan. Those who've never seen the show need not worry, though some of the events portrayed on the show are referenced, no backstory is needed to enjoy the novel. And, of course, all of the Leonard hallmarks are present: spot-on dialogue, spare description, and sly, subtle humor. Elmore Leonard says he simply leaves out the boring parts when writing, and anyone who's read a single page of his work knows he's not kidding.
Plot-wise, as mentioned, the book follows three loosely-connected storylines. In the first, Raylan hunts down a couple of low-lifes who've evidently graduated from dealing pot to selling body parts. In the second, a new mountaintop relocation project leads to the destruction of a home and murder. Finally, Raylan comes to the aid of a young poker prodigy--an attractive university grad who may want Raylan's company more than she needs his help.
If I really need to convince you to read the latest Elmore Leonard, then we don't have much more to talk about. If you're already convinced but haven't yet checked out Justified: do yourself a huge favor and watch it; no movie or TV show has better captured the Elmore Leonard tone than Graham Yost's brainchild.