Angela's Reviews > Raylan

Raylan by Elmore Leonard
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May 20, 12

Read from February 16 to 27, 2012

If you've seen "Justified" this review contains minimal spoilers. If you have not, there are substantially more of them. Either way, here there be spoilers:




Whether you first discovered Raylan Givens through FX's Justified or have known him since Leonard first published "Fire in the Hole," you are no doubt hoping for an all-new adventure from the man who first introduced the world to the US Marshal from Harlan, Kentucky. If you are watcher of "Justified," you will be sorely disappointed.

Raylan isn't so much a novel as a collection of interconnected short stories that really have very little to do with one another but have nonetheless been cut together to form a longer work. It is a fast and easy read that most people should be able to burn through in one or two sittings. Nevertheless, I almost filed this one under my "didn't finish" pile. It felt too much like watching a rerun, as a good 60-75% of this novel is comprised of things most of its readers will have seen before.

I am highly curious to know if the show took its season 2 and 3 ideas from Leonard when Raylan was still a work-in-progress, or whether Leonard started this novel when seasons 2 and 3 had already been written and/or were in production. Because, honestly, if you have seen season 2 and what has aired of season 3 (I am writing this just before the 7th episode makes its debut), there is little new material to be found here.

The novel opens with the kidney theft arc of Season 3, following the shows so closely that huge chunks of the dialogue sync verbatim between the show and the novel. We then backtrack to Carol Conlan and the strip mining fiasco of Season 2, except this time, the wonderful Mags Bennett has been replaced with a Crowe patriarch and distant relative of Dewey. As for Dickie and Coover, Mags's inept good ol' boy sons? They are now Dickie and Coover Crowe, Pervis Crowe's inept gool ol' boy sons.

This second arc does deviate a bit from what we saw in season 2, especially in regards to Miss Conlan and her own story but, again, it is largely a rehash of the show, right down to the exact same dialogue.

The only new material (as of this writing) comes in the final third of the book and pertains largely to a young poker player named Jackie Nevada who crosses paths with Raylan. Though Jackie is herself an interesting character, I found her wholly improbable in relation to Marshal Givens, and I hope sincerely that the show deviates from the novel in terms of their intersecting storyline. She is completely wrong for Raylan, and their relationship made me cringe from the moment it became evident they were moving beyond the Marshal/fugitive association.

Leonard is a writer who knows how to evoke real chemistry in his characters. Anyone who's read or seen Out of Sight can attest to that, but there is nothing about Jackie and Raylan that makes me buy them as a couple, even if the relationship ends up being much more brief than hinted at in the novel.

Jackie's arc also involvs a trio of female bank robbers and their "mastermind," a story which has tremendous potential but ends up taking a turn for the beyond farcical. When two of the girls turn up dead, rather than investigate Raylan and Boyd spend three or four of the novel's closing chapters watching Jackie play poker. Poker, it should be noted, is not that interesting to watch. It is even less interesting to read about. Especially when there are criminals who need to be caught and enormous, dangling, unresolved chunks of plot that need attention.

With this book, Leonard has simply lost his way. I have greatly enjoyed his earlier works, which feature full characterizations, snappy dialogue and move the plot along at a breakneck pace. Leonard is not a writer who wastes words. He gets in, gets the job done, and gets out. Raylan , however, suffers from a fatal abruptness. Some of the sentences are so short they are barely fragments which leave way too much room for mixed meanings, and it took several rereads of them to even figure out what he was trying to say. Raylan is too short, too abrupt, and has a generally jumpy feel to it that derails the narrative every time it builds up steam.

I expected more from Leonard, and his audience deserves better.
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Reading Progress

02/20/2012 page 12
5.0% "I have to wonder when this book was being written in comparison to the season 2 & 3 air dates. If you have seen the show, you will be scratching your head from time to time while reading this. Though the opening chapter parallels events in early season 3, Loretta appears here as someone Raylan has never met before and Pervis Crowe is obviously filling the Mags Bennett role."
02/20/2012 page 26
10.0% "Yep, now Dickie and Coover have had their firest mention in the novel and they are Crowes, not Bennetts. I'm going to have to more or less pretend the TV version doesn't exist in order to enjoy this one."
02/21/2012 page 57
22.0% "It's been a few years since I've read anything other than short stories from Leonard, but I don't remember his writing being quite this abrupt. He's always had a very lean, cut-all-the-fat style of dialogue and descriptors, but this one feels oddly choppy."
02/21/2012 page 106
40.0% "Looks like this isn't one story, but a collection of novellas where they chapter numbering doesn't reset. We have now gone from the Crowes and the kidney thieves to Boyd Crowder with no transition whatsoever. Have I mentioned this book is choppy and jumpy? Because it is."
02/23/2012 page 142
54.0% "If you're looking for all-new material, this is not the book for you. There is nothing we haven't seen played out (or at least heavily alluded to) on the show. Most of the dialogue has been copied & pasted directly from the episodes. If it wasn't already so short, I'd be adding this book to my "didn't finish" pile. Very disappointing."
02/24/2012 page 175
67.0% "On to arc three and maybe, just maybe, something that hasn't been seen on TV (as of this posting, anyway). Finally."
02/26/2012 page 222
84.0% "In a book called "Raylan," it's surprising how little page time the Marshal has."
02/27/2012 page 249
95.0% "I'm less than 20 pages from the end. There are two dead girls whose killer is walking around free, even though Raylan knows who did it. Raylan and Boyd have spent the past two chapters watching a college girl play high-stakes poker against a Texan. That should tell you pretty much everything you need to know."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Rebecca Roe I was interested to know that this book was Leonard's last and Timothy Olyphant encouraged him to finish it. They used many of the situations in the series but the people and events are all twisted around.


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