Elmore Leonard Q&A

Author and executive producer Elmore Leonard talks Justified, Raylan Givens and the inspiration behind his new book.

Elmore Leonard, author and executive producer of Justified

Author of 45 novels, Elmore Leonard has during a writing career spanning over six decades received widespread acclaim for his crime fiction and westerns - a number of which have inspired hit Hollywood film adaptations, from Barry Sonnenfeld's Get Shorty to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. In 2010 Leonard's novella Fire in the Hole became the basis for 5USA drama Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant as Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, and on which he acts as an executive producer opposite Graham Yost.

Although Leonard is famously outspoken about interpretations of his work (he says he's 'disowned' 2005 flick Be Cool), Justified has not only earned his seal of approval but also inspired him to pen a fourth book charting the exploits of true-blue hero Raylan. Here, as the second season launches on 5USA, the legendary writer offers his take on the success of the show - which has recently been picked up for a third series in the US - and reveals his hopes for more of his work to make it onto the big screen.

Elmore Leonard...

...on the inspiration for Justified:

'Raylan Givens was in two books [Pronto and Riding The Rap], and one kind of a long short story called Fire in the Hole, about when he was a coal miner in Kentucky... Graham Yost [executive producer and writer] had written segments of The Pacific and Deadwood, and he decided he liked Fire in the Hole because it’s different: it takes place in Kentucky, and he liked the way the story developed. So then he sent me the script [for Justified], and I thought it was great. I didn’t see anything wrong with it at all, which is unusual.'

...on his reaction to the pilot:

'How often do you see an actor who is exactly the way you heard him when you wrote him?'

'When I saw the pilot and I saw Timothy Olyphant, I thought, ‘God, he’s perfect for it,’ because how often do you see an actor who is exactly the way you heard him when you wrote him? Before this Richard Boone was the only actor outside of George Clooney who delivered the words exactly the way I heard the lines when I wrote them. I was very pleased with the pilot, and I’ve been pleased ever since.'

...on his new novel, RAYLAN:

'I’ve tried to use three women who oppose Raylan in one form or another. In the first segment, the woman is a surgical nurse who resents the fact that these young doctors make $1 million and she makes $86,500, and she begins stealing kidneys – not from the hospital but out on the road... She’s the first woman that [Raylan] has ever shot.

'I wrote about this woman who steals kidneys, and she's the first woman that [Raylan] has ever shot.'

'The second woman works for the coal company... and in the third one, I have a girl who is a poker player... Her stepfather is a sports bookie, and she bets on last year’s NCAA basketball game. Last year Butler lost to Duke. She goes to Butler, so she bet all the students; she bet on Duke, and they all bet on Butler, and she won $20,000. But then that night she plays with some real poker players and loses the $20,000 in about an hour. But she’s not bad, and Raylan, once he goes after her, he falls for her; he likes her a lot...

'It’ll be a book probably next Fall. Then I don’t know what I do, but I’ve written now 45 books. I started my first one 60 years ago, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve had a good time. I like to write books. If I’m having a good time writing them, I might as well keep going.'

...on segments from RAYLAN making it into Justified:

'Some have – not the nurse, because that’s been done. I’ve never seen it done on television, but it has been done. But they’re using other segments. I feel that if I’m going to be an executive producer, and my name’s up there every week, I should do something; I should do something for the money!'

...on the difference between writing books and scripts:

'I don’t look at writing books as work at all, but screenwriting is work, because you don’t do it alone; you’re always doing it with somebody, at a studio. I always wanted to write movies; it just didn’t turn out to be as much fun as I thought.'

...on adapting other novels for television:

'We’re trying now. We’re definitely heading for TV land. I had two [shows] before that went for six episodes [Karen Sisco and Maximum Bob]. I never thought that I’d be writing stories for television. But now television’s getting good, with cable, and you can do what you want; you can write just about anything you want and they’ll air it!'

Season 2 of Justified starts Wednesday 20 April, 10pm on 5USA