The first season of Justified got me so hooked that, in desperation while awaiting the release of season two on DVD, I turned to reading (the horror!) one of Elmore Leonard’s novels featuring Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, the character played by Timothy Olyphant on TV.
Much of the plot of Riding the Rap was adapted into the third episode of Justified, “Fixer”. In both forms the story centers on a broke man living in his mother’s run down house who kidnaps a bookie he owes sixteen thousand dollars. In the book the kidnapper is assisted by a Puerto Rican ex-bounty hunter and a Bahamian with the improbable name of Louis Lewis. There’s also a fortune teller named Reverend Dawn who seems to be helping both the kidnappers and Marshal Givens.
Maybe it’s just another case of my father’s maxim that whatever medium you first experience a story in is the one you’ll automatically prefer, but after watching “Fixer”, Riding the Rap seems overstuffed and monotonous by comparison. The plots of both versions rely on a comically stupid decision by one of the bad guys, and indeed the whole kidnapping plot is so obviously misconceived that the reader just kind of waits around for the snag in the plan to bring the whole thing down.
Unlike in previous Leonard fiction I’ve encountered, the bad guys in Riding the Rap are lifeless and uninteresting. Even the fortune-telling Reverend Dawn wears thin quickly. Raylan Givens isn’t given much to do besides wait out the dumb kidnappers plot with the rest of us. There are brief flashes of the humor and world-weariness that bring the character to life on screen, but they are few and far between.
Riding the Rap is a fairly mediocre source of entertainment, and did nothing to quench my appetite for more Justified.