Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Elmore Leonard book signing, July 26


    Elmore “Dutch” Leonard is well-known in southeast Michigan as a native son for his crime novels (“Raylan,” “Get Shorty”), his westerns (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Hombre”) and the films and television series (“Justified,” “Karen Sisco”) based upon them. His son, Peter, is also a writer (four books so far: “Quiver,” “Trust Me,” “Voices of the Dead” and “All He Saw Was the Girl”), and you can meet them both at a special event, 7 p.m.  July 26, at the Bloomfield Township Public Library (1099 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Township, 248-642-5800), presented by the excellent Oak Park independent bookstore The Book Beat.
    (Admission to the event  is free, but advance registration is requested by calling 248-642-5800 ext. 171. The authors will sign copies of their books bought at the event; for more information or to reserve copies, call 248-968-1190.)
     I haven’t read a lot by Leonard the elder, and nothing by the younger, but I am a big fan of “Justified,” which was inspired by Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” featuring U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, also incorporating a bit from the novel “Pronto.” After seeing the show, I read both. 
     On “Justified,” which Leonard doesn’t write but over which he has some influence, Givens starts out as a super cop, reassigned to his home region of Kentucky for being a little too eager to shoot a drug dealer in “self-defense.” There he has a run-in with Boyd Crowder, a racist, smalltime crook with whom he used to work in the coal mines. Boyd and Raylan are kind of “the road not traveled”: they started out from the same place, in similar situations, but one turned to the law and the other to crime.
     The producers of “Justified” decided to explore that relationship. While in the story “Fire in the Hole” Boyd dies, in the series he survives and even claims to have a religious awakening, professing to have found the lord and preaching to Harlan’s outcasts. Raylan and the viewer is left to wonder how real this conversion is, suspecting not very and that Boyd has some scam up his sleeve.  That’s season one. The relationship shifts and changes over the next two seasons.
     The main difference between the Raylan of Leonard’s fiction and “Justified” is that print Raylan is not quite as together a dude. He’s awkward, a bit of a schlemiel and, at times, downright dumb. Half of “Pronto” is from the perspective of a loan shark who Raylan’s trying to arrest, but who keeps outsmarting him.
     Leonard doesn’t usually write about supermen, but Hollywood likes them. Chilli Palmer in “Get Shorty” is also smarter in the film version.
     I like the Leonard I’ve read a bit more than most of the Leonard adaptations I’ve seen, but I like them both in different ways.
      Elmore Leonard’s latest is “Raylan,” a new novel about Raylan Givens. I don’t know if or how it reconciles the print and TV versions of the character, but I’m curious to find out.


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July 27, 2012 at 11:05 PM 

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