"Elmore Leonard can write circles around almost anybody active in the crime novel today."
--New York Times Book Review
With more than forty novels to his credit and still going strong, the legendary Elmore Leonard has well earned the title, "America's greatest crime writer" (Newsweek). And U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Pronto, Riding the Rap, Fire in the Hole) is one of Leonard's most popular creations, thanks in part to the phenomenal success of the hit TV series "Justified." Leonard's Raylan shines a spotlight once again on the dedicated, if somewhat trigger-happy lawman, this time in his familiar but not particularly cozy milieu of Harlan County, Kentucky, where the drug dealing Crowe brothers are branching out into the human body parts business. Suspenseful, darkly wry and riveting, and crackling with Leonard's trademark electric dialogue, Raylan is prime Grand Master Leonard as you have always loved him and always will.
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Plenty of memorable witty quotes but focus on coal mining due to limited space, (only a single quote in goodreads):
The troopers got a kick out of this marshal, at one time a coal miner from Harlan County but sounded like a lawman, his attitude about his job. This morning they watched him enter a fugitive felon’s motel room without drawing his gun.
South of Barbourville Raylan turned off the four-lane and cut east to follow blacktops and gravel roads without names or numbers through these worn-out mountains of Knox County, the tops of the grades scalped, strip-mined of coal to leave waste heaps, the creeks down in the hollows tainted with mine acid. Raylan followed Stinking Creek to the fork where Buckeye came in and there it was, up past the cemetery,...
On one side, COAL KEEPS THE LIGHTS ON, and opposite them on the other side of the walk, was the same sign with words crossed out and one written in that said COAL KILLS.
They drilled holes in the rock above the veins, and blew charges to get the coal out. Otis’s house—still a thousand feet down the mountain—would shake and pictures of his dad and Marion’s kin would fall off the wall. He’d told her, “By the war, they was a hundred and thirty thousand miners diggin coal in Kentucky. Now they’s a few dozen up there scrapin it out with Cats. It ain’t like coal mining no more.
Otis came out of his house and crossed the yard to where Boyd Crowder and some coal company man in a suit of clothes were looking at Otis’s fishpond: the pond down to barely a foot of water, fish floating dead in a scum of coal dust.
“No jobs,” Raylan said, “and coal dust settling on everything you own.”
Carol said, “You know that old coal song? ‘We have to dig the coal from wherever mother nature puts it.’ That’s what coal mining is all about.”
“It don’t mention the mess,” Otis said, “strip-minin makes of your home. You ever live in coal country you know that.” “I was born and raised in Wise, West Virginia,” Carol said, “till I went away to law school.” “Was any soot on you,” Otis said, “it’s gone now. My wife’s never been belowground, but she’s dyin of black lung, sleepin next to me forty-seven years breathin my snores.”
The company builds a slurry pool gonna hold all the mess they make washing coal. The wall busts and poisons dump in the stream feeds my pond. I work for those people or ones like ’em forty years underground. They kill my fish and don’t think nothin of it.
“At one time,” Raylan said, “there ten thousand people living here. Population’s down to eight hundred, not much deep mining now. Towns change as the style of mining changes. M-T’s blasting away at the ridgeline, stripping the sides in layers down to what they dump over the side, the forest squattin below. I remember my buddies leaving high school, marrying a girl they knew all their life and going down in the mines. The boy can’t wait to have this little girl in bed with him every night, a cutie till she loses her teeth. Wears herself out raising kids while he’s out drinkin if he ain’t down a mine. He gets a hunk of shale fall on him, he’s laid up and can’t work, so they fire him,” Raylan said. “Remember Tennessee Ernie Ford diggin number nine coal, gettin older and deeper in debt?” “Owed his soul to the company store,” Art said.
Carol said, “Times change, don’t they? You’re drivin a car now stead of a team of mules. The blacksmith used to shoe your mules, what’s he doin? He’s gone, workin at something else now. Most coal mines are still underground, but you know it’s changing. There more and more surface operations workin today.” From the crowd: “You mean desecratin the mountains.” Carol said, “We restore the mountains, don’t we?” The same voice: “Wait a hunnert years for the trees to grow? I doubt we’ll be around.”
One of them holding a GOT ELECTRICITY? THANK A MINER sign said, “Raylan, I hear you’re on the company’s side this time.” “Till tomorrow,” Raylan said. Another coal lover in his sport shirt and M-T company hat said to Raylan, “I’ll meet you out here after, you want. Teach you respect for the company.” “You don’t see me right away,” Raylan said, “practice falling down till I get here.”
“What have future generations ever done for us?” Carol said. “I’m kiddin. You know who said that? Groucho Marx. Listen, I don’t think we should worry our heads about running out of coal. I know we’ve got enough in the ground for the next two hundred and fifty years.” A man’s voice piped up: “We can have windmill power right now, like in Holland. Clean wind, no soot blowin on us.” “If the wind lovers ever get it right,” Carol said. “The trouble is, wind turbines can cause health problems, headaches and sleep disorders, kids having nightmares.”
“You don’t live anywheres near a mine, do you? You know what it does for people livin below? It covers everything you own in coal dirt. It’s all over the house on every surface. Is that why they call it surface coal? It’s in your bathtub, your well—you can’t drink the water no more. Every mornin a coat of coal dirt coverin my car. I have to wash my car before I can go to work.”
“Except”—and nailed it in a few words—“there’s a big difference between my pay and a coal miner’s working for a company that shuts down when they feel like it,” ...
“You clear out,” a voice said, “without cleanin up the mess you always leave behind. A ’poundment breaks loose where you’re holdin three hundred million gallons of slurry, fulla poison, toxic chemicals, and it pours down in the holler and contaminates the water. You know what your boss, the CEO of M-T Mining, called it?”
“We work for a time, the company digs while the price of coal is high. The price dips, the coal company files bankruptcy, forfeits its bond, and slips away in the night.” “You know they’re always risks,” Carol said. “It costs a fortune to set up a mine operation. They don’t find as much coal as expected, they have to try again someplace else. Mister, it’s the price of coal on the market keeps us in business.”
“I’m surprised you did, your dad a miner.” “He died,” Carol said. “I was at Columbia and switched my major from English lit to mining management and joined the company.” “And save your love for your dog?” “I have a cat. That’s what I call her, Cat. ‘Hey, Cat, whatcha doin, huh?’ She never purrs.” “I don’t blame her.”
“Blasting causes damage to homes in the area, cracks the foundation—you have a house close to a mining operation—she can depreciate on you ninety percent. This home bein all the man’s got.” “Coal’s his life,” Carol said, “in his family for generations. I’ve already talked about more work. Give us the mountains and we’ll give you jobs.” “You don’t have enough to offer. Man’s out of work, falls behind in his payments, the bank takes his house. You gonna get health questions too,” Casper said. “More kids gettin asthma, all the coal dust in the air.” “But a lower incidence of black lung,” Carol said, “mining from the top?”
“They’re fired,” Carol said, and took a moment before saying, “you know I grew up in coal camps—” “You keep reminding us.” “To make the point,” Carol said, “I know hill people are a different breed, strange to outsiders. But you’ve been something of a new experience for me.” “Anything happens to Pervis,” Raylan said, “I’ll come lookin for you.” Carol said, “You promise?”
“It isn’t curious, it’s a look of curiosity. Wait a minute. Wasn’t it God put all that coal under the grandeur?” “It stops them in their tracks,” Casper said. “I say, ‘Heck, if God put it there . . .’ Or I might say, ‘Hell, is God tryin to hide it on us?’ I smile. ‘Playin a game on us?’ I tell them, ‘But gettin it out gives you men jobs and heats your homes,’ and I go through all the coal rewards.”
“No one’s perfect, Raylan. Not you or Otis or his buddies. Otis is in heaven, with his old pals from the deep mines. Coal miners get old and die from being coal miners.” “But while they’re alive,” Raylan said, “they have a right to be alive.”
Throw in Carol Johnson, just about the whole set of characters:
Boyd said, “Raylan . . . ?” “We’re through talking for now,” Raylan said, walking up to the porch. He looked at Pervis. “You ever see Carol again, call me, and I’ll get marshals on her.” “She don’t worry me none,” Pervis said. “I got Dewey here lookin out for me.” “I’m devotin my life to it,” Dewey said. Rita had come up by the porch. She said, “I told Pervis he ought to be ashamed of himself, Dewey has to wait till you pass. What if the mountain, it turns out, ain’t worth diddly, the coal Dewey’s been waitin for years already dug out?” Pervis said, “I always tried to be optimistic in life.” Dewey looked from one to the other. “But everybody says it’s full of coal. Ain’t it?”
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