FX’s hit series “Justified,” which returns on Tuesday for its fourth season, has been hailed as groundbreaking for its complex, moral storytelling, its modern-Old West setting of Harlan, Ky., and for its lawman hero, Raylan Givens, perpetually wearing a white cowboy hat and played with no small amount of charm by Timothy Olyphant.
But the show has been quietly breaking another kind of ground these past few years. Both the character of Raylan and the world of Harlan come from the pages of master crime-writer Elmore Leonard, who created Givens as a secondary character in two novels about Miami from the mid-’90s, “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap.” It wasn’t until 2001 that Leonard wrote the story “Fire in the Hole,” which made Raylan the star and sent him back home to Kentucky. This story became the basis for the pilot episode of “Justified” in 2010.
Of course, Raylan Givens is hardly the first literary character to leave the stories where he was born for the bright lights of film or television — but he may be among the only to return to print. In 2012, after two hit seasons of “Justified” had aired, Elmore Leonard took Raylan Givens back to the page, in a novel titled “Raylan” – his first Givens story since 2001.
Stranger still, Leonard got the idea from actor Timothy Olyphant. As “Justified’s” creator Graham Yost explained to GQ, “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?’” It must have been a surreal moment for Leonard, his own character standing there telling him to write more about him.
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