Elmore Leonard’s final published novel is not one for those obsessed with continuity. Raylan is the third Leonard novel featuring U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, plus the title story from his collection Fire in the Hole. That story was adapted into the FX series Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant, which in turn inspired Leonard to return to the character for this novel. The novel both does and does not incorporate the TV series. Leonard follows suit with the show and brings Boyd Crowder back to life, though the on page version doesn’t fully capture Walton Goggins’s rascally charm. Leonard also puts Dickie and Coover Bennnet into his story, but changes their last name to Crowe. In turn, the show wound up partially adapting one of the novel’s plotlines for a third season episode, though they also made pretty significant changes.
With that out of the way, the book itself is sort of structured like a TV show in a way. Rather than follow Raylan on one major case, the novel takes a sort of “week in the life” approach that sees the title character dealing with three or four smaller matters, which overlap in various ways given that they all take place in Kentucky. At the start, Raylan and his fellow marshals are about to conduct a drug bust when they find their target bleeding in a hotel bathroom. Turns out he’d been double-crossed and had his kidneys removed. In classic Leonard oddball style, the criminals try to ransom back the kidneys for an exorbitant fee.
Later, Raylan finds himself tentatively on the same side as Boyd Crowder, as they both are employed to keep an odious coal-company lawyer safe while she tries to quell an uproar among miners and out-of-work miners. He also finds himself simultaneously on the trail of a poker-playing bail-jumper (who just happens to be a beautiful Butler University co-ed) and a bank robbery ring comprised of exotic dancers doing the bidding of their abusive dealer.
Along the way, Raylan displays his trademark wit, flair for the dramatic, and casual attitude to proper procedure. The body count gets pretty high, many of them shot by Raylan himself. The bad guys are not quite as memorable as Leonard’s best, but they’re still an entertaining bunch. This isn’t Leonard at the height of his powers, nor is it quite as good as the TV series, but it’s still a fitting companion that fans of either author or show can enjoy.