When Federal Marshall Raylan Givens squares off against a known offender, he will warn the man, "If I have to pull my gun I'll shoot to kill." Except this time he finds the offender naked in a bathtub, doped up and missing his kidneys. Raylan knows there's big money in body parts, but by the time he finds out who is making the cuts, he is lying naked in a bathtub himself, Layla, the cool transplant nurse, about to go for his kidneys. It turns out all the bad guys Raylan is after are girls this time: the nurse who collects kidneys and sells them for ten grand apiece. Carol Conlan, the mine company executive who comes to Harlan County to sell mountaintop removal, shoots a miner who wastes her time, then meets the miner's widow in a scene you won't forget. The third girl's only offense is missing a court date. Jackie Nevada plays high-stakes poker for a living and is last seen in the shower with Raylan.
Elmore Leonard is justly famous for his handling of dialogue and his colorful characters. The characters came through pretty well here, although for me, the dialogue suffered in the audio version. Typical of Leonard, there were criss-crossing plots and people all shades of moral grey. Not nearly as much fun as Out of Sight or probably any of a number of other Leonard books. I think I'll probably go back to Raylan's beginnings and see if those are better, before the cross-pollination of the TV show happened. (This was actually written after the show started, so it puts this one in a sort of strange Inception-esque limbo of book-inspired-by-tv-show-inspired-by-book.)
And now, maybe riding the popularity of the show we have Mr. Givens back again, in Raylan.
I hesitate to call this a novel, because, although they are tied together, this is really more of a series of several short stories. First, we have a tale about a drug bust that turns into the classic urban myth, a man who wakes up in a bathtub to find his kidney stolen. Except in this case it is both his kidneys and they are being held hostage for a payment of $100,000. After Givens solves that one, we move on to another story, this of an evil, nasty piece of work woman who is the representative of the coal company that is strip mining the area mountains...and let's just say that she is willing to go the extra mile to get her way. It may appear that her story is left hanging as we move on to the next, but worry not. It will be resolved and in an amusing, if deadly, way. And finally, we have the story of Jackie Nevada, a college student and fantastic poker player, who skips out of jail, becoming Givens' professional as well as personal subject of interest.
I am a bit torn about this book. The stories are interesting and the book is a fast, easy read, full of great characters, not the least of which is Raylan Givens himself. The dialogue is fantastic, obviously one of Leonard's strengths. And I am sure fans of the previous books will enjoy this book. But I am not sure it is the place to start and from what I understand, viewers of the series who come to this book may be a little confused, because while some of the same folks and settings appear, there are a great, great many changes.
Still Raylan is a very good character, enough to carry this book with as much style as he wears his trademark hat and it was a fun read.
While the premise of the novel seemed very engaging, it actually fell a little short. This is primarily because the novel reads more like a collection of short stories strung together with truncated transitions. Instead of one main story arc, there are at least three and they don’t really weave together in the end. It’s also incredibly dialogue-heavy and reminiscent of a novelized screen play instead of a rich and fully fleshed out world. This led to a lack of connection with the main character, Raylan.
The novel also has a cast of far out characters (seriously – a transplant nurse who steals kidneys and leaves her victims in bathtubs full of ice). Givens has many witty interactions with them which helps speed up the pace of the book, but it did take extra time to navigate the heavily Kentucky-accented dialogue throughout the book. Added to that, the relationships that Givens has with the other characters just weren’t believable.
The novel is, however, entertaining in a very light read-it-and-leave-it fashion and well-written overall. I’m sure someone who has seen the TV series Justified, which the novel’s main character is in, would be more interested in Raylan.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Raylan free through the TLC Book Tours review program. I was not required to write a positive review and did not receive any other compensation. The opinions I have expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Harlan County, Kentucky is hurting from the closure of coal mines. Entreprenurial folk have now made marijanua the county's number one cash crop. Raylan is familiar with most of the players, having grown up in Harlan County. But two enterprising souls have discovered yet another lucrative sideline - body parts, mostly kidneys. How to stop this dogged US Marshall that's hot on their trail? Well, he does have two perfectly good kidneys...And that's just one of the three storylines Leonard has penned for Raylan. Although they were loosely connected, each felt like a separate novella.
Now, Raylan released after the mid season break of Season Two of Justified. I found some of story lines and characters from television repeated in the book, albeit with a few changes. Or did the television series borrow heavily from the book? So, part of the storyline was not new, but parts of it were. No matter, fans will still be captured.
The audio version of Raylan features Brian D'Arcy James as the reader. As a fan of Justified, I have come to associated certain actors and voices with the characters. I was concerned that I wouldn't identify with new voices. But that concern was unfounded. James employed a great accent for each of the characters, almost matching those I knew. His tones and inflections immediately brought Harlan County to life. Leonard's strength is in his dialogue and James did it justice.
Raylan is a walk tall, talk soft, draw your gun and use it kind of lawman. Fans of Jack Reacher and Joe Pike would enjoy the character of Raylan Givens. A gritty, down and dirty tale filled with Leonard's trademark whip smart dialogue.
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 Wurlitzer’s), 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.
Review Copy Gratis Amazon Vine
I have watched, with pleasure, the television series inspired by this book, and can only assume the writers of that work either new far more than I, as a reader, am being told, or else they made up what isn't between the covers of the novel.
I don’t know, but have a suspicion that this book was written after, or perhaps simultaneously, with the scripts for the TV series 2nd season as a way to capitalize on the fame of the TV series. No matter, it’s a wonderful modern-day western replete with bad guys and quick-draws. In real life, Raylan would have drowned in paperwork writing up his extravagant use of bullets.
It’s a bit of a chaotic, episodic book that seems to feature multi crimes, which are only vaguely linked. We kick off with a kidney harvesting racket, move over into evil corporate shenanigans with the powerful Coal company and sidestep into
Tracking a young runaway & poker fiend. The book is great at evoking the Southern USA setting, some great characters carrying on that cool, wry dialogue Leonard is good at. Raylan is a lot of fun but it's too uneven to be really satisfying.
Of course knowing it's a tie-in to the TV might explain things and be warned it's also a part of a series where Raylan plays a minor role (I think I haven’t read them).
Recommended for fans only, its not a bad book but there are better places to start.
This book sees him dealing with 3 different criminals all women.
First is the Nurse who steals kidneys
Second the Evil woman who works for the Coal mine company
Thirdly the young woman who is on the run from the law and is also a very good Poker player.
I struggled with this book found the language confusing, not for me.