Elmore Leonard’s New ‘Justified’ Novel: It Was Timothy Olyphant’s Idea

“Raylan” was written “to give us something to hang up and strip for parts,” “Justified” series creator Graham Yost says

Timothy Olyphant doesn't just star in "Justified."

He also gives famed author Elmore Leonard — who introduced Olyphant's character Raylan Givens and company in his works — ideas for books.

Leonard has just released "Raylan," a new novel devoted to the U.S. marshal. And the idea for book came from Olyphant.

"It started when (Leonard) was visiting the set in the first season and Tim said to him, 'Hey, why don't you write another Raylan short story?'" "Justified" series creator Graham Yost said.

"'And so he started on one and kept going. And wrote a second one and tied it into the first one. Things work better in threes, so he came up with a third story that tied into the first two. And now he has a novel."

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No spoilers for the book or the series, but suffice it to say that certain plot points from the book do carry over to the TV show, including a big "Justified" season three storyline involving hapless Dewey Crowe.

"(Leonard) wrote this novel … and said, 'Hang it up and strip it for parts,'" Yost said. "And so we did. There were two big chunks that we took from it last year, and thematic things and characters. And there's a couple of big things we're taking this season. If there's a fourth season, there's a few more things we'd like to mine from the book as well."

Still, there are also big differences between the TV and book universes of Raylan Givens. While TV Raylan is about to have his first child, with ex-wife/current love Winona, the Leonard book version of the character is a divorced father of two with an eye for the ladies.

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"These are two alternate universes. One in which we're writing Raylan Givens and another one in which Elmore is doing it," said Yost. "And there's points where they cross and we'll use stuff, and other points where they're probably not going to cross, and there's things we're probably not going to do. But we'll still find pages of dialogue and stuff that we can repurpose and use whenever we want it."

The dialogue in "Raylan," as in all of Leonard's writing, is nuanced and pitch perfect, and with Olyphant's performance of the character on TV comes the added pleasure of almost being able to hear the actor say the words as you're reading.

"Oh, yeah, especially reading the 'Raylan' novel, you can just hear (Tim) saying them," Yost agreed. "And it's interesting, (Tim's) Raylan has changed a little bit from Elmore's original depiction of Raylan, to what Tim has now brought to it and what we've written for Tim.

"First of all, Raylan was much older in the original books and in the novella. And he's now, well, he's Tim's age. Funny, that. So it's been this odd sort of back and forth thing between us and Elmore. But, yeah, I can hear Tim's voice. But listen, I've been reading Elmore since '85 or so, and have just always loved his dialogue. And always felt that the most successful adaptations of him were by writers like Scott Frank and (Quentin) Tarantino, who just try to capture Elmore's style as best they could. Sometimes just using, as far as I know, just chunks of Elmore's actual dialogue. I know I did when I adapted the pilot."

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As for the author himself, he says he's very pleased with the Raylan Givens Olyphant and the "Justified" writing staff have created.

"They know what they’re doing. Good writing. I think, the writing … I can’t believe it
sometimes," Leonard said during FX's "Justified" TCA panel. "My God, it’s a lot better than what I would have written in the scene, you know. But from the very beginning, I wanted to sell to the movies … and so I made it very visual, as visual as I could, always from a character’s point of view, always, and use all the characters and find out who they are. And I think that’s helped. And I’ve sold, I think about 20 (stories) to Hollywood. Because from the very beginning, I’ve been in it to make money."