By Elmore Leonard

(HarperCollins, $26.99, 263 pages)

Who is this author?

First, let me wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. And since I have a crush on Raylan Givens, the main character on the FX network TV show “Justified” (actually, I love everything about the show), it seems appropriate to give a shout-out today to the man whose writing inspired it:  the amazingly prolific, delightfully clever, 86-year-old author, Elmore Leonard.

Leonard, who hails from suburban Detroit, began as writer of Westerns and then profitably switched to crime novels and thrillers. He’s published more than 40 books and a host of short stories, some of which were adapted as movies, such as “Get Shorty” with John Travolta, “Hombre” with Paul Newman and “Mr. Majestyk” with Charles Bronson, to name but a few.

For a guy who started out writing pulp fiction, he’s won some impressive honors, among them the Grand Master Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America, a Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and an F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature.

What is this book about?

“Justified,” the TV series starring a Stetson-wearing, conflict-weary Timothy Olyphant, is about a U.S. Marshal in Harlan County, Kentucky, fighting crime both organized and deeply disorganized, from the Miami mob to the Dixie Mafia. The show mainly grew out of a Leonard novella called “Fire In the Hole.” It has become such a hit that it inspired Leonard to write this  novel featuring Raylan Givens, who also appeared in his novels “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap.”

“Raylan,” which like the TV show is kind of a Western crossed with a crime novel, gives us the laid-back, lanky, laconic lawman in a fight to shut down a ring of Kentucky-fried dealers: not of dope, a huge cash crop there, but of body parts such as kidneys, which also command quite a price…especially if yours have been taken against your will and you, understandably, want them back. Raylan finds that the main malefactors this time around are women: a poker-playing college student, a nurse who knows how to remove kidneys from unwilling donors and a heartless coal mine executive.

Why you’ll like it:

Here’s how Leonard does what he does, taken from the recent review of “Raylan” in The New York Times:

“In an essay that appeared in The New York Times in 2001, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,” Elmore Leonard listed his 10 rules of writing. The final one — No. 11, actually — the “most important rule . . . that sums up the 10,” is “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” It’s a terrific rule…“ Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

Leonard is known for creating wacky and compelling characters and also for writing dialogue that zings and zigzags like the bullets in the firefights that frequently occur in his tales. In Raylan the character, he’s given us a marshal adept at handling a rifle and recognizing the ironies of life. Raylan always seems personally insulted when some lowlife or lunkhead behaves badly. So if he needs to go after that bad guy (or gal), Leonard makes sure we know it’s, well, justified. In “Raylan” the novel, Leonard gives us lots more of the cool guy we’ve come to know from TV. Be still, my heart.

What others are saying

“ [A] fast-paced, darkly humorous third crime novel starring straight-shooting, supercool U.S. marshal Raylan Givens. …The author’s trademark witty dialogue and adeptness at developing quirky, memorable characters overshadows the novel’s plot, which reads like a series of interconnected short stories. ..Readers will want to see more of the endearing Givens…” says Publishers Weekly.

“ …you notice that the three primary antagonists are female. This might be what “Raylan” is really about. Not gambling, mining or organ trafficking: It’s about women, and one marshal’s relationship to them. Whether they’re the puppet masters or the innocents, the killers or the victims, the women are often the smartest characters in the room, despite the fact that each of Raylan Givens’s three antagonists is more than a little hung up on him. But who wouldn’t be? A morally astute sharpshooter with nice Southern manners, a sense of humor and a clean cowboy hat — you don’t find men like him every day,” says Olen Steinhauer in The New York Times.

“The kidney-theft caper sets a darkly comic tone, and the mining murder does not add much cheer to these pages, though, as in the final section, the alacrity and buoyancy of Leonard’s narrative, which rushes along fueled by the dramatic edge of his brilliant dialogue and brings every bad guy (and girl) to justice, makes a reader want to stand up and shout: “Mission accomplished!” says Alan Cheuse in The San Francisco Examiner.

When is it available?

“Raylan” is on the shelves at the Dwight, Goodwin and Ropkins branches of the Hartford Public Library and can be requested for pick-up at the downtown branch as well.

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