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Apropos of Nothing

Double Dutch

Elmore Leonard has a new character busting heads on TV, and a new book set in Djibouti.

Book Cover Like many Americans, despite a nagging sense of better judgment and the guilt that follows from ignoring that judgment, I succumbed to unseen societal forces and purchased one of those new fangled televisions—which, of course, requires some kind of connection to the grid with its multitudinous and maddening choices. Occasionally, there is some (real) value to be squeezed out of an otherwise sordid medium. FX’s new series Justified is one such.

The reason begins with crime-story maestro Elmore Leonard’s involvement. The series is based on Raylan Givens, a character who has appeared in two Leonard novels—Riding the Rap and Pronto—and a novella, Fire in the Hole. Dutch Leonard (as he is also known) is listed as one of the show’s numerous executive producers, which in the filmmaking world could mean anything from an honorary mention to being the money man to being the reason the money was raised. In this case, it seems that Leonard is the muse who inspires the series’ writers—e.g., Graham Yost (also an executive producer)—for the first two episodes.

Which is to say the writing and the plot arc is wonderfully Leonard-esque. Raylan Givens, a Deputy U.S. Marshall in Miami, opens the proceedings, meeting Tommy, a thug he has given 24 hours to leave town (or he would kill him). With the ultimatum having only minutes before its expiration, the two have a vintage Leonard exchange. It’s a fascinating two or three minutes executed with nimble precision. Tommy gets his, and although by all the legal protocols, the shoot was justified, Givens is transferred to Kentucky, which is where he grew up. His first assignment is to bring to justice Boyd, a white supremacist he happened to have mined coal with in their youth. This is a rich vein of drama and humor as Boyd and his cohort are both lethal and goofy—in a manner that Leonard has mined successfully throughout his fiction.

If you are one of Leonard’s fans and jonesing for his latest work (and have exhausted his substantial oeuvre of over 40 novels), his new opus, Djibouti, is scheduled for an October release. The story is set in Djibouti (on the Horn of Africa) with Dana Barr, an accomplished documentary filmmaker intending to film the seagoing pirates who occasionally make it into the news cycle. Leonard’s publisher indicates a cast of misfits and oddballs, which make reading one of his stories great, good fun.

P.S. You may be aware of the drums beating for David Simon’s new dramatic series Treme, set in New Orleans (with George Pelecanos and Tom Piazza part of the writing team). Here is HBO’s most recent teaser/trailer.
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