Monday, 26 August 2013

Raylan by Elmore Leonard Review


Raylan Givens, US Marshal, looks up a weed dealer in a hotel room only to find him sat in a tub with ice and his kidneys missing. From there a twisting trail of murder, blackmail, land dispute, and cards unfolds taking in everyone from an elderly drug baron operating out of a food stamps store to a disgruntled nurse who decides to strike out on her own, to a band of bank robbing gals, and a poker playing girl called Jackie Nevada with her ace in the hole. Elmore Leonard's back and he's packing heat.

I loved this book. I thought he was going to spin out the organ trafficking storyline for the full 260 pages but he finished it at page 100, without introducing any new characters, making me wonder where he was going to take the story next. From there he goes into a murder story concerning a coal mining exec and an old man who happened to live nearby whose house was flattened by the coal company. Then from there Leonard introduces a new story of a trio of bank robbing girls and then another story of a poker playing 23 year old student on the lam.

Elmore Leonard does some amazing storytelling weaving these fascinating individuals into a single storyline. It's masterful and incredible to see these disparate elements prove to be part of a larger whole. More amazing still is the way he creates characters. Each one had its own voice and seemed completely real. Leonard writes femme fatales like no other, making them sexy and deadly and smart and witty too, from the organ harvesting nurse to the ice queen coal mining exec to the smart and resourceful poker player to the drugged out bank robbing gals.

The dialogue is the star, something Leonard is famous for and what everybody says about his books, but it's so true. Honestly, I was blown away by some of the scenes, particularly when the poker girl and the horse breeder rich guy have that exchange about playing cards - the dialogue is fast, musical, hits the ear perfectly, and is unlike dialogue in any other novel. Are you a first time reader of Elmore Leonard? Pick up this book and see why people praise his characters' speech like no other.

Putting aside the technical majestic on display throughout the book, Leonard knows why people read and particularly why people read his books - to have fun. To relax, unwind, and be entertained. And for no other reason than entertainment, this book excels. Murders, kidnappings, shootouts, high stakes poker games, this book has it all and no-one reading this novel will come away feeling short-changed of entertainment value. Even the characters seem to be having a good time, Raylan moving from crime scene to shootout to bars and finally to bed with a good looking girl, I got the feeling his eyes were wide, his heart was beating, and a smile lay beneath his face the entire time.

This is my favourite novel of 2012 so far. It's got everything from fine storytelling, superb writing, one of a kind dialogue from the man who sets the gold standard for dialogue, an array of excellent characters and some utterly brilliant setups, this is a novel that readers will rocket through with a big grin on their faces. You're looking for a good read? Stop reading this and pick up "Raylan" - he'll sort you out.

RIP Elmore Leonard - 1925 - 2013

Raylan

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