But in the last ten years American television has undergone a renaissance, so much so that it is now possible to do justice to a book over multiple episodes of a show. The Sopranos is endlessly cited as being pioneering in the shift to more complex storytelling on television, but alongside it stand Six Feet Under, Mad Men and particularly The Wire, which really did adopt a novelistic approach, each season acting as one long story. (You could make a case for Babylon 5 and the latter seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine being the 1990s forebears of the extended story-arc approach, but good though those shows were, I think you'd struggle to claim they had the depth of The Wire.) TV has become the natural medium for adventurous producers and writers wishing to properly explore storytelling possibilities – and indeed properly adapt a source text (witness the first season of Dexter, for example). Which brings me, in a rather long-winded way, to Justified.
Justified, if you're not familiar with it, is an FX show about a cowboy hat-wearing Deputy US Marshal named Raylan Givens, who, following a shootout at a swanky Miami hotel pool, is excommunicated back to small-town Kentucky, where he grew up. Created by Graham Yost, it stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan – a character not a million miles from another lawman Olyphant has played, Sheriff Seth Bullock, as essayed in the brilliant Deadwood. Justified is based on an Elmore Leonard short story called Fire in the Hole... at least, that's what the opening credits would have you believe. In fact the 2010 debut season draws from all of the stories Leonard wrote about Givens, which comprise two novels – Pronto and Riding the Rap – and the aforementioned short. Yost and the rest of the production team's mantra in making the show was, "What would Elmore do?" but in reality I doubt they had to repeat that too much: countless sequences and stretches of dialogue are lifted straight from Leonard's stories; his name runs through Justified as if through a stick of rock. It is, without a doubt, one of the most faithful adaptations – in story, character, and tone – of Leonard's or any other writer's work we've yet seen.
I'll be exploring how and why it's so faithful in a series of posts next week on each book (bet you can't wait after that meandering preamble), ahead of the start of Justified's second season on Wednesday in the States. But for now, let's have a look at the UK first editions:
Left to right we have the UK hardback first editions and first printings of Pronto (1993), Riding the Rap (1995) and When the Women Come Out to Dance (2002), all published by Viking/Penguin; that last one is where Fire in the Hole resides. The cover illustrations on the first two are by Mark Taylor and the photograph on When the Women is by Russell Duncan. Now, if you've been paying attention (a big ask, I know, but anyway), you might recall my having blogged about a first edition of Pronto before, which I bought up in London. The copy you can see here isn't that copy, however. This one has something special about it, something that made it irresistible to me:
It's signed by Elmore Leonard. Of course, signed editions of Leonard's books aren't exactly thin on the ground – there are over fifty signed copies of Pronto on AbeBooks alone. But almost all of those are for sale from US dealers, and almost all of the books are US first editions. There's only one other signed UK first edition I've seen online, and that's going for fifty quid, which is way more than I paid for my copy. So in this instance, I reckon buying a second copy of the same (albeit signed) book was... well... justified.
See you next week.