Currently reading: Favourite Books: ‘Raylan Givens’ Series
Favourite Books: ‘Raylan Givens’ Series
Posted on 25th September, 2017 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
Elmore Leonard at his Finest!
I have read many books that originated from the pen and mind of the late; great, Elmore Leonard. But, out of the many adventures he has created, the stories surrounding the life U.S. Marshal; Raylan Givens, are the ones that stayed with me the most.
The first works of Elmore Leonard, were his critically-acclaimed Westerns, first published in the 1950s. He then went on to focus on – what people consider – crime thrillers, much like those featuring the afore mentioned U.S. Marshal.
Many of the American author’s novels have been adapted for the big screen, such as; Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Out of Sight and 3:10 to Yuma, all of which were very well received.
But, one of my favourite adaptations has to be for the small screen. This was an adaptation inspired by the short story; Fire in the Hole, which focuses on – you guessed it – Raylan Givens.
Pronto (Raylan Givens #1)
Before the hit TV show, fans first experienced the ultra cool, sharp-shootin’, smooth talkin’ U.S. Marshal in Pronto.
Published in September 1993, Elmore Leonard introduced the literary world to one of the coolest lawmen this-side-of Harlan County.
His name, is Raylan Givens, and this United States Marshal has to go to Italy in pursuit of a wanted fugitive.
Harry Arno is the bookie-turn-fugitive, a man on the run from Miami Mob boss; Jimmy Cap, having been discovered ‘skimming’ some of the big man’s profits for himself. Step forward two slow-minded, highly-incompetent henchmen, who are sent to track Harry down.
As expected, these two inept grunts cross paths with the mild-mannered, no nonsense Raylan – who is a quick with his words, as he is guns.
Riding the Rap (Raylan Givens #2)
Published in 1995, the continued adventures of quick-draw U.S. Marshal; sees Raylan investigating the world of criminal ineptitude once more, but this time; in Florida.
Once again, Harry Arno is in trouble, but this time he is at the mercy of three hostage takers, who are in desperate need of money. And, given Harry‘s history with the mob, he’s the man for them.
Something that will come as no surprise to you, is that this kidnap caper goes wrong, leaving the criminals Riding the Rap of their mistakes – as Raylan goes after Harry once again, with his trademark Wild West hat, razor-sharp tongue and second-to-none draw-down.
Fire in the Hole (Raylan Givens #3)
Originally published as part of the collection When the Women Come Out to Dance; in 2001, Elmore Leonard’s next tall tale of the gunslinging lawman is the novella; Fire in the Hole.
This time U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens returns to Eastern Kentucky to the coal-mining county of Harlan, to intervene with an old friend (and criminal); Boyd Crowder.
Old friends who’ve grown-up on opposite sides of the law, each with an interest in Ava; a flame from the past, along with a lingering respect for one-another, leads to the inevitable confrontation that you won’t want to end.
Interestingly, this is the very same short-story responsible for inspiring – what I consider to be – one of the greatest TV shows I have ever seen. Justified – but more on that later…
Raylan (Raylan Givens #4)
Published in January 2012, and naturally titled; Raylan, was Elmore Leonard‘s final novel before he passed away on August 20th 2013.
Elmore was so impressed with the show – Justified – that it inspired him to return to the character once more, the final book of which; featured the image of Timothy Olyphant‘s portrayal of the iconic U.S. Marshal on the front cover.
Not only did he return to the character, but the stories that make up Raylan; stayed loyal to the television show, which – in my opinion – speaks for itself.
Still in Harlan, Raylan has to deal with local dope-dealing criminals, as well as dissect the plans of certain medical “professionals” and their – some what – unorthodox methods for making money.
A ‘Justified’ Gratitude
First-of-all, I have to confess, I am a bonafide fan of Justified.
Based on the short-story; Fire in the Hole (previously mentioned above), the critically-acclaimed television show; Justified, sees Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, return to his home town.
Upholding justice using methods akin to that of the Old-West; Raylan is put at odds with the criminals of the surrounding holler, and his superiors in the Marshals Service.
Staying extremely loyal to the source material, whilst also paying homage to the other stories (from Leonard) that featured U.S. Marshal Givens, Justified was a success.
Created for the FX television network by Graham Yost, the show had a respect for the source material that is rarely seen today, or had been before; for that matter.
With the titular hero and villain of Fire in the Hole portrayed to perfection on screen by Timothy Olyphant (as Raylan Givens) and Walton Goggins (as Boyd Crowder). Both actors – who happen to be close friends in real life – received high praise; along with the rest of the cast and crew, from Elmore Leonard himself.
“I think it’s a terrific show. I love all of the writing, and I’m amazed sometimes that they’ve got the characters better than I put them on paper.”
– ELMORE LEONARD
If you haven’t watched Justified, or have; and would like look back in appreciative awe, then give this teaser a watch, and comment below if you know to whom he pays homage.
In conclusion, Elmore Leonard was one of the greatest writers of our time, and he will be sorely missed.
With his signature, dialogue driven narratives, Elmore Leonard has created many great stories that will be enjoyed time and again by generations of readers. And hopefully, any future adaptations of his works will be treat with the same love and respect, like that of Justified.
Furthermore, to categorise these specific works as ‘Crime Fiction’ would be a crime itself. Sure, they focus on criminals, they are dramatic, and also thrilling, but they are so much more than that! They are warm, comedic, clever and rather endearing. They are… Elmore Leonard.
Finally, fingers-crossed the rumoured fifth Raylan Givens novel, titled; Blue Dreams, is respectfully finished by Elmore‘s son; Peter Leonard, to one day grace our bookshelves.