Review: Raylan by Elmore Leonard

I think this is the first time that reading a book has made me want to watch a tv show.

I’ve read books and wanted to see them made into movies, but I don’t normally watch a lot of television. Still, I might have to make an exception for Justified, the show based around Raylan Givens. Givens appears in Riding the Rap, Pronto and Raylan.

Raylan Givens is a former coal miner, now a U.S. Marshal. You get the distinct impression that Givens is not quickly climbing the career ladder at the Marshal service — he seems a bit too out-spoken and he has a tendency to go off in his own direction, rather than following directions he’s been given. He gets good results, especially since he’s assigned to his old stomping grounds:

“The troopers got a kick out of this marshal, at one time a coal miner from Harlan County but sounded like a lawman, his attitude about his job. This morning, they watched him enter a fugitive felon’s motel room without drawing his gun.”

This book covers a lot of ground. There are marijuana fields, illegal organ sales (and we are not talking about Wurlitzers), high stakes poker games, bank robbery and murder. The smaller stories flow naturally, one into the other, so the book seemed to slide right over what seemed like stopping points. I wasn’t sure where it was all going to end up, and Raylan followed some twisted paths to get there, but it was an interesting trip.

In the early chapters, I found the language a little choppy and difficult to follow — it seemed like the sentences broke off in mid thought and picked up in strange places. It took a little while to get used to it.

“The DEA fella comes down here in his dress shoes and pays for product before he’s given any. Anxious, in a hurry to get her done. Like cuttin’ a fart he believes is gas and messes himself. I’m to take your word my tads cheated this man?”

I am definitely planning to check out the earlier Raylan Givens novels, and if I can find the first season of Justified streaming somewhere, I want to give that a shot, too. Givens is a great character, but there are plenty of other interesting and oddball residents of Harlan County. They should make for a lot of good reading.

My copy of Raylan was a review copy, provided free of charge.

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