Elmore Leonard's 'Raylan' is gut-bustingly funny

March 4, 2012 12:01 am
  • Elmore Leonard: "His plot goes in every direction except the expected one."
    Elmore Leonard: "His plot goes in every direction except the expected one."
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A transplant nurse seduces men in a seedy motel room, then removes their kidneys and leaves them in a bathtub filled with ice water. When the victim is discovered and brought to a hospital, she offers to return his own kidneys to be re-transplanted for $100,000.

Only Elmore Leonard could make this premise laugh-out-loud funny.

Nurse-from-Hell Layla quickly meets her nemesis, however, in Federal Marshal Raylan Givens, familiar from earlier novels by Mr. Leonard's and the FX TV series "Justified."

When an offender threatens Raylan, he warns the perp, "If I have to shoot, I'll shoot to kill." In fact, he has killed seven men in the line of duty, but when he finds himself naked in a bathtub about to be shorn of his kidneys, he is faced with a moral dilemma about using his gun against a woman. Should you "think of your manners and let the woman go first ... when she's pointing a gun at you?"

By Elmore Leonard
William Morrow ($26.99).

With the closing of numerous Kentucky coal mines, marijuana has become the state's biggest cash crop, but human body parts -- especially kidneys -- can generate even more money faster, so a bizarre new cottage industry is sprouting up in them thar hills.

There are more lethal women to come. "Raylan" is really three loosely connected stories involving the macho marshal in the assorted criminal shenanigans among the lowlife of rural Kentucky and its neighboring states.

A ruthless coal mine company executive called Carol Conlan shoots a former worker whose home has been destroyed in retaliation for his complaining over the effects of strip mining on his pond. She then gets her underling to say that he did it to protect her after the worker opened fire in her office.

A third woman who gets Raylan's attention is Jackie Neada, a likable co-ed who pays her tuition by sideline card shark activities in high-stakes poker games. When she is arrested in a raid, she slips out of the police station and becomes a wanted woman.

The details can be as hilarious as they are gruesome. Mr. Leonard's fast-patter dialogue is raunchy and perhaps real in the circles he writes about. His plot goes in every direction except the expected one, and the ending is just if not exactly legal. These are the qualities that Leonard fans have come to love, and his latest novel will not disappoint.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:33:07

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