Raylan by Elmore Leonard

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Crime Fiction Books
Tags: , , , , , ,

Crimezine Raylan


Elmore Leonard is eighty-six years old, you would think by this stage of his writing career he wouldn’t much care  what people thought of his work. A thought that may have occurred to many Crimeziners, who read Leonard’s last off-the-boil novel Djbouti, a tale of modern day African piracy, that had Crimezine snoozing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, America’s greatest living crime writer is back on form this year, with Raylan. A tale involving US Marshal Raylan Givens, a character first introduced to us in the classic early nineties Leonard novels, Pronto and Riding the Rap.

Crimeziners will no doubt remember that the last Raylan Givens story was the 2001 novella Fire in the Hole, which inspired the cult FX television show Justified. Apparently Leonard found fresh inspiration in the show and felt compelled to advance the Raylan milieu himself.

Which is terribly nice of him.

Crimezine understands that Graham Yost, Producer of Justified, forces writers of the series are to wear WWED bracelets [What Would Elmore do?] Crimezine suspects Octogenarian Leonard would these days enjoy a warm milky drink, mid-afternoon followed by a long nap. Crimezine hopes Mr Yost is enforcing this edict rigorously.

Justified has in many ways subsumed the world of Raylan Givens, to such an extent that when Leonard’s narrative diverges from the structure the show has created, the reader is distracted. Which is unfortunate, but perhaps understandable, given that Television’s narrative demands are often different to those of crime writers, such as Mr Leonard.

Raylan the book is classic Leonard, in terms of its laconic plot driven dialogue. It is also episodic. We get lame brained stoners the Crowe brothers, who have decided to branch out into the lucrative world of human organ theft: stealing human kidney’s, then selling them back to the owner—genius. We also get fugitive Poker ace Jackie Nevada and a trio of bank robbing strippers. Last but no means least there are dark doings afoot at the local coal company. These nefarious shenanigans make for a glorious and good humored crime romp, in classic Leonard style and Crimezine looks forward to the antics outlined here appearing in the TV show, for no doubt they will.

Crimeziners may know that Elmore Leonard was an acclaimed writer of Westerns for years, he turned to crime writing when the market for Westerns dried up. Crimezine suspects that quick-draw Ralyan, played to great effect in Justified by Timothy Olyphant provides a trip down memory lane for Mr Leonard. Perhaps that is why he is returning to this character so late in his career? Crimezine wishes him luck and many more years of successful writing too.


  1. Mike Ripley says:

    Thank goodness someone else shares my feelings about “Djibouti”. As a long-standing (30 years)fan of Elmore Leonard’s work, I was SO disappointed in it and couldn’t understand why it was ranked so high in the Best of 2011 poll on the Crime Time site. Can’t wait for the new series – and book – of Raylan though.

    • tonybulmer says:

      Thanks Mike, your input is greatly appreciated! Mr Leonard is a Godlike creature to Crimezine, but even Godlike creatures have off days! Hope you like Raylan, let us know when you have read it. It is a long way from the Gold Coast days, but we think you will like it just fine none the less. Incidentally, which are your fave Leonard books? Get Shorty is a given, so you are not allowed to say that!
      All the Best
      Tony Bulmer

      • Mike Ripley says:

        Favourite Elmores?
        Gold Coast: Split Images; Cat Chaser (if only for the last two pages!); Freakey Deakey;
        Mr Majestyk; City Primeval; Stick, Valdez is Coming; Hombre.
        I could go on.

      • tonybulmer says:

        Good choices Mike, how about these: Gold Coast, La Brava, 52 Pickup,Rum Punch,Killshot,Swag? Did you know that Leonard named Get Shorty after Dustin Hoffman? Allegedly—[Chortle] Leonard worked with Hoffman on the screenplay of La Brava, and did not relish the experience.

  2. tonybulmer says:

    Spoken like an astute Elmoreian Jimbo!

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