Book Review: RAYLAN by Elmore Leonard

This review is by contributor Mr. PCN, a cowboy in his own way.—PCN

Raylan Givens, a US marshal whose no-nonsense way of upholding the law is viewed by his higher-ups as too reminiscent of the Old West, gets relocated from Miami, Florida, back to Harlan County, Kentucky, where the friends and enemies of his youth don’t exactly admire his current profession.

Although the dust jacket suggests a single plot involving our hero on the trail of redneck brothers Dickie and Coover Crowe, who branch out from pot dealing into organ trafficking, the story covers multiple cases. There’s Raylan tracking down a bank robber who skipped out on her arraignment, and reluctantly playing bodyguard for a coal-industry spokeswoman as she faces down angry Appalachian locals who suspect her of murdering one of their own. These stories play out as vignettes initially and connect as a whole by the end of the book, but the appeal lies in Elmore Leonard’s mastery in putting it all together.

I embraced this novel on two levels. First, as an appreciative reader of Leonard’s succinct, character-tailored prose, and secondly as a fan of Justified, the TV show based on the titular character. Die-hard Leonard fans might remember Raylan from two of the author’s previous novels (Pronto, Riding the Rap) as well as a novella (“Fire In The Hole” from his collection When the Women Come Out to Dance).

Actor Timothy Olyphant’s portrayal of this righteous badass with a past is so on point with the author’s intention, it’s hard not to visualize the actor while devouring the prose. Justified fans who pick up this book will undoubtedly recognize Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Goggins) and Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), but may have a few head-scratching moments when encountering plotlines the show took creative license with during the first two seasons. Hopefully, this won’t discourage watchers from becoming readers and enjoying the work of the man who created Raylan.

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  • Reply
    January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Fine review, Elyse. It’s only whetted my appetite for the book. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks, but I have to give the credit to Eric!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I have about 30 pages to go and am loving the book, in no small part because of the differences from the show. One of the Goodreads reviews described it as the characters we know from TV in a slightly parallel universe…I think that fits! Couldn’t agree more about Leonard, too.

  • Reply
    Eric Edwards
    January 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Thankst, Le0pard13, but to be honest, PCN makes me sound more intelligent than I am, so your praise was well placed the first time.

  • Reply
    January 11, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Big fan of the FX series. Nice to read the character stays true from what Leonard had in mind. So often is that not the case.

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