Raylan Givens, US Marshal, looks up a weed dealer in a hotel room only to find him sat in a tub with ice and his kidneys missing. From there a twisting trail of murder, blackmail, land dispute, and cards unfolds taking in everyone from an elderly drug baron operating out of a food stamps store to a disgruntled nurse who decides to strike out on her own, to a band of bank robbing gals, and a poker playing girl called Jackie Nevada with her ace in the hole. Elmore Leonard's back and he's packing heat.
I loved this book. I thought he was going to spin out the organ trafficking storyline for the full 260 pages but he finished it at page 100, without introducing any new characters, making me wonder where he was going to take the story next. From there he goes into a murder story concerning a coal mining exec and an old man who happened to live nearby whose house was flattened by the coal company. Then from there Leonard introduces a new story of a trio of bank robbing girls and then another story of a poker playing 23 year old student on the lam.
Elmore Leonard does some amazing storytelling weaving these fascinating individuals into a single storyline. It's masterful and incredible to see these disparate elements prove to be part of a larger whole. More amazing still is the way he creates characters. Each one had its own voice and seemed completely real. Leonard writes femme fatales like no other, making them sexy and deadly and smart and witty too, from the organ harvesting nurse to the ice queen coal mining exec to the smart and resourceful poker player to the drugged out bank robbing gals.
The dialogue is the star, something Leonard is famous for and what everybody says about his books, but it's so true. Honestly, I was blown away by some of the scenes, particularly when the poker girl and the horse breeder rich guy have that exchange about playing cards - the dialogue is fast, musical, hits the ear perfectly, and is unlike dialogue in any other novel. Are you a first time reader of Elmore Leonard? Pick up this book and see why people praise his characters' speech like no other.
Putting aside the technical majestic on display throughout the book, Leonard knows why people read and particularly why people read his books - to have fun. To relax, unwind, and be entertained. And for no other reason than entertainment, this book excels. Murders, kidnappings, shootouts, high stakes poker games, this book has it all and no-one reading this novel will come away feeling short-changed of entertainment value. Even the characters seem to be having a good time, Raylan moving from crime scene to shootout to bars and finally to bed with a good looking girl, I got the feeling his eyes were wide, his heart was beating, and a smile lay beneath his face the entire time.
This is my favourite novel of 2012 so far. It's got everything from fine storytelling, superb writing, one of a kind dialogue from the man who sets the gold standard for dialogue, an array of excellent characters and some utterly brilliant setups, this is a novel that readers will rocket through with a big grin on their faces. You're looking for a good read? Stop reading this and pick up "Raylan" - he'll sort you out.
on 16 February 2012
Raylan is the protagonist of the TV series Justified, and a man we've met more than once before in Elmore Leonard's stories.
In this book, that kind of makes us think that it's not novel but rather a collection of interconnected stories, we follow Raylan as he's called to investigate three different cases. The first one has to do with the removal of the kidneys of a known criminal and then the offer from the perps to sell them back to him; the second concerns the murder of an ex-miner, who suffered a lot during his stay with the company and afterwards as well; and finally the third follows the footsteps of a rather brilliant college student, who after losing a lot of money playing cards decides to hit the road and head to Las Vegas, looking for the big score.
As one would expect from a Leonard book its strongest points are the characters and the dialogues. Be Cool; that seems to be Raylan's mantra, and cool he is. He is a Marshall, an enforcer of the law, who has his own individual sense of justice and who follows his own rules; someone who doesn't seem to care how justice is done, as long as it is done. So, when he investigates the kidneys case the only thing he's interested in is solving it and arresting the perps, he doesn't care even a little bit, that the men in question are the sons of one of the biggest drug lords. When he tries to prove that the death of the ex-miner did not occur as an act of self-defense, but rather that it was a cold-blooded murder, he does not hesitate to clash head to head with his temporary employer, a sexy yet ruthless woman, and when the final solution comes about, though highly unorthodox, doesn't make him break a sweat. And when he accidentally bumps into the runaway girl, instead of arresting her on the spot he gives her a chance to make things right. In Raylan's world the end justifies the means. And in his world, one way or the other, justice is always served.
Raylan however is not the only unique, in his ways, hero in this novel. The baddies are just as interesting as him, or even more so. We have old man Crowe, who no matter what has his own set of rules; Rita, a kind of housekeeper for the man and his occasional lover, and the only person he can totally trust along with, Raylan; and then comes an adventuress, a woman with a heart of ice: "This was a cool woman with evil ways. The best kind." And finally we have someone who betrayed all her beliefs, if she had any, who chose to forget her past and do everything and anything she possibly could to secure herself an unknown yet brilliant future; one who believed that she could and would have all there was to have, and couldn't take no as an answer; a victim of her own making.
Raylan's adventures offer the reader something similar to a roller coaster ride; they are cool and they are exciting, without seemingly trying to be so.
Highly recommended to all the fans of the good writer, but also to every single soul out there that enjoys a good old crime novel. I'd say that Raylan is here to stay.
on 27 February 2013
Reads like three interlinked episodes of the Justified TV series - in fact a number of elements were used in the series. Leonard gives us an entertaining cross-linked trio of stories with sparky dialogue and a shoot 'em up modern western backdrop, but little in terms of depth. The stories focus on various female villains each with a criminal project with little prospect of long-term success. They move along quickly, but by the end you feel there could have been more in the way of focus.
on 8 January 2014
Mistook this title for another sequel about the career of US Marshal Carl Weber, immortalized in several rich Elmore Leonard stories and novels. Alas, it dealt with another US Marshal called Raylan Givens from coal mining East Kentucky. I like Carl and family far better than Raylan because EL gave him more depth and history. However, a quick scan on the net showed that Raylan had roots in EL’s oeuvre too, like “Pronto” and there is even a successful TV series about him. Live and learn. Despite all this, I doubt “Raylan”, whether on screen or on paper, will succeed anywhere beyond parts of the US and Central America.
Why? (1) Raylan talks in a regional dialect with key words missing. Never had trouble with EL’s earlier use of slang or dialect, but the talking in "Raylan" forced me to reread sentences too often for comfort. It slowed down EL's usual flow for non-Kentucky readers. (2) The poker game towards the end went over my head and contained a poor running gag: EL named a Somali character in his novel "Djibouti" Kwame, a purely Ghanaian name. In "Raylan", the name Kwame is stamped on a Saudi poker player. Brr. Not funny, pointless. Most importantly, (3) Raylan is portrayed as investigator, judge and executioner wrapped in one. Despite an oeuvre full of violence, this is a sad conclusion to a rich and often humanistic and empathic writing career.
Hope all 46+ novels by Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) stay in print. They depict what it means to be a loser in the US over decades, early on as cowboys or farm workers, later often as dumb criminals. EL's own heroes are always a bit smarter and more headstrong than the rest, wearing their hats just the right way, preparing themselves for a final showdown, time and again. In view of this, “Raylan” is disappointing.
on 18 March 2012
This should be required reading for all aspiring writers. Dialog is terse, lean and mean, the vernacular slick as a whistle. The plot is deceptively random and populated by seriously flawed characters, though each one of them shows the occasional glimmer of humanity. What at first might have appeared as a series of short stories suddenly comes together as a single, wickedly entertaining narrative when the puppet master pulls the strings. Just when I thought Elmore Leonard couldn't get any better, along comes "Raylan" and sets the bar a notch higher.
on 22 June 2016
More crime fiction. I always thought I hated this genre and have never read any of his so-called greats like Get Shorty and Hombre or indeed any of his <terrific> early western stuff. The blurb on the cover describes him as the Crime Writer’s crime writer. He is the guy famous/notorious for his tips on writing plainly: he said; she said; Raylan said; said Art; he said. I find it mannered and dated I’m afraid.
It’s about a gang of desperadoes who steal the kidneys from living people, usually in a motel room and then sell them back to them [before they die]. Kidney transplants are something very close to my own knowledge base right now and the idea is completely preposterous, as far as I am concerned. His style is banter and gallows humour, like this from p.129:
‘Raylan, I hear you’re on the company’s side this time.’
‘Till tomorrow,’ Raylan said.
Another coal lover in his sport shirt and M-T company hat said to Raylan, ‘I’ll meet you after, you want. Teach you respect for the company.’
‘You don’t see me right away,’ Raylan said, ‘practice falling down till I get here.’
About half-way through the story takes a right turn in a completely different direction when the boss of M-T mining shoots a miner and then way down the line on page 200 a whole slew of new characters arrive and we get some stuff about poker players. After that he abandons the he said, she said and we go to:
‘I saw that part.’
‘Harry’ll put the checks in my account.’’
‘Were you nervous?’
‘A little. But I knew I’d win.’
‘How’d you know?’
It is linear; this happens then that happens then something else happens. He doesn’t do ‘clever’ with events out of place, which is something by and large that I don’t like. He has a slight structural problem keeping it all in the present tense which effectively means he has to have Raylan in virtually every scene, even when he has nothing to do directly with the action at that time. But it isn’t a big issue. The dialogue seems authentic . . . Ameri-kan low-life but I am so detached these days from anything American that it is completely meaningless to me whether it is authentic or not.
Overall, I quite liked it.
Raylan Givens is a deputy U.S. Marshall in Harlan county, Kentucky. A once coal rich area & it's people are now fading as the mines shut & the mining companies strip mine the mountains to destruction in search of the last few seams of coal.
Raylans job more often than not revolves around the backwoods homesteaders who are as tough as old boots and more than happy to off anyone who gets in the way of their drug & moonshine production.
If you have seen any episodes of 'Justified' then you know what to expect. Leonard is heavily involved in the series production & his input means that this audiobook sticks pretty close to what you've already seen. Nevertheless there are many differences, particularly in characters who are more quickly disposed of in these stories than the TV programme & particularly in the first story involving the trafficking of body parts.
There is much less of Raylans personal life in these stories & the depth is not as much as there simply isn't the time to unwind everything that 'Justified' has.
The stories are still gripping, the characters lively, humour is frequent if sharp edged & Raylan remains a very likeable character. Lifted straight out of the old west & plonked down in a modern world he never seems to fully understand.
The reading is very ably handled by Nick Landrum who is a bit of an old pro at audio book readings as he reads for both Harlen Cobens stories & the 'Dexter' series too. An audiobook director too Landrum does a great job of varying Kentucky accents so that each character is easily identifiable when they speak. He speaks clearly and is very easy to understand which takes some skill when you consider he's talking in an accent that is very convoluted & stylised.
Leonards writing is a winning combination of to the point & brief description that chooses words carefully so that a whole picture is painted in just a few simple lines. The action is gripping but where he scores so highly is characters who are full of life & easy to believe in.
This loses a star because I really do prefer the telly version. However if you love it too this is a great addition & offers real entertainment value. I'll be quite happy to listen to this again.
A really enjoyable listen, well recorded & very well read. Tough, (there is violence & the odd swear word here & there), gripping & well paced, 'Raylan' is an audiobook that is easily recommended.
on 12 March 2014
The late, great Elmore Leonard created a wonderful fictional hero before he died that served him well in some of his later novels and in the TV series 'Justified', called Raylan Givens. He is the Chili Palmer of Harlan County, a US Federal Marshall with good looks, charm, wit, a cowboy hat all of which are lethal.
Raylon is really three short stories loosely hanging together, and features two female villains and one love interest, who unexpectedly pops up at the end. That all these women wanted to screw Raylan is a bit of a warning that this is male escapism, but Raylan doesn't want to bed women he has to kill.
The first story is the best, one about a bitter nurse who decides to use men to steal kidneys for sale. It is 100 pages long, and when it got resolved, I thought, well, this is not a real novel. The second story about coal mining companies and their dastardly practices is still very good, and has a cracker of an ending. The final story is the weakest, but features a typical male Leonard villain and a young woman poker player worthy of Raylan's affections.
What Leonard teaches readers is how to tell a story, how to write dialogue, how to create compelling characters and a how to enjoy reading even if the story is not very deep and meaningful, but wildly entertaining. I will miss him, he was a great. I lapped up almost everything he dished up, this slight novel included.
on 7 June 2012
Gripping, read this book in two days. I could not put it down. Luckily I've held off watching series 2 of justified so didn't know what was going to happen. If you've enjoyed Raylan Givens on screen or in previous books this is a definite must for you.
I would recommend, if you haven't already, to read Pronto, Riding the rap and Fire in the hole (in that order). Even if this book and justified have a slight contradiction to fire in the hole. I still enjoyed this book though.
on 2 July 2012
I haven't read an Elmore Leonard for years but I was pleasantly surprised how he has maintained his easy going, storytelling. I enjoyed this book very much as it moved at pace, didn't get bogged down in side issues of no importance and had a touch of humour. The only reason I didn't give it more stars was the fact it actually read like a film script something that is becoming all too common with today's authors.