Nine short stories make up the Fire in the Hole collection (previously called The Women Come out to Dance) and are a great introduction to Elmore Leonard’s easy style of writing and terrific dialogue. I’m just starting to get in to his books, this would be the 4th I’ve read, and so far I’m enjoying the hell out of them. The main draw of Fire in the Hole is the title story. Fans of the FX series Justified know this is the story that provides the series with it’s backbone as well as almost entirely encapsulates the first episode. This story finds US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens returning to his home of Harlan County, Kentucky to help bring to justice an old friend of his, Boyd Crowder. The story is so good if a TV series hadn’t been made based off it you would certainly be forgiven thinking someone should do so and quickly.
Another story features the welcome return of Leonard’s other US marshal, Karen Sisco, who is once again mixing pleasure and work when she discovers she may be dating a bank robber. The other stories in the collection are quite good as well. There’s the one with the insurance detective investigating possible arson of a rock star’s house, the trophy wife who wants to bump off her husband, the ballplayer making a pitch – in more ways than one – of a lifetime, the stunt man who returns to Texas and finds a band of criminals have taken over his farm, and so on. All of the stories move fast and have that Elmore Leonard shine to them. They don’t feel quite like they are set in our world. Everyone is too cool, too witty, too perfectly world weary to really belong in this mundane plane. Leonard’s world is like ours on the surface, but everything is so much more bad ass it makes visiting a treat.
Not just for Justifed fans, there is a lot to like here and if you are just starting to read Elmore Leonard this is a great jumping off point. I still mourn the passing of the man, but with a catalog like this I’ve excited I’m just at the start of the discoveries.