Miami bookie Harry Arno has lived a relatively good life. As a mid level man in Jimmie Cap’s criminal operation he’s managed to skim a sizable bank account’s worth of excess off the top and is now planning to retire from the game with his lovely 25 years younger girlfriend, Joyce. Unfortunately, Harry put off his retirement a little too long and is now the unwitting pawn in an FBI sting targeting Jimmie Cap. The feds set up Harry for a bogus theft, and now Jimmie Cap puts a hit on him. Harry flees to Italy to escape the mob, the feds, and most important, the laconic Stetson hat wearing deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens.
I haven’t read a lot of Elmore Leonard books other than the ones movies have been made from. I AM a huge fan of the recently ended FX series Justified so I jumped at the chance to experience another Raylan Givens story. This one does not disappoint and the unexpected ties to Justified are a lot of fun. One of the primary antagonists in Pronto is none other than the infamous Tommy Bucks and the whole story serves (sort of) as a prequel to Justified. “Sort of” because there are several details about Raylan that differ from the TV series, including that he has 2 kids with ex-wife Winona. He’s also a bit more of an eccentric character. He’s still fast with the quips and faster with his gun, but more than one character describes him as “odd” and there are several cracks about his penchant for wearing that hat.
The book moves very fast and piles on twists as everyone converges on the small town of Rapallo, Italy for a final showdown. The criminal bad guys are largely dim witted and end up foiling their own plans, but the stakes are high for everyone involved and I had to wonder at several points who was going to survive and outlast the villains. The characters are well drawn as well and are given interesting arcs. Raylan is rather annoyed to be chasing a guy he lost once before, Harry starts off sympathetic but as he falls back on old vices to cope with the stress he becomes less rational and reveals his true colors as a heel. Joyce ends up a much stronger character than earlier chapters indicated and she ends up being able to hold her own when the guns come out. The villains are a lot of fun and serve as mostly competent foils against Raylan and company.
I took Pronto on vacation recently and read it mostly on the plane rides to Florida and back. I had it finished before landing at the end of my first leg on the return visit home. It’s a pure beach read, a fun and fast moving thriller, and has plenty of laughs and thrills to get you through a lazy afternoon or soul killing airport travels.
Graham Yost take note, it would make a GREAT movie prequel to Justified.