Justified is one of my favorite contemporary television shows. I’ll admit to being more than a little sad that it’s over, but fear not, if you want more Justified in your literary life, I have just the books for you.
I love when there’s an obvious place to start and with this show, which is based on an Elmore Leonard short story (that he subsequently expanded in later works), there is. When the Women Come Out to Dance is a collection of short stories by Leonard, one of which is “Fire in the Hole”, which, if you’ve seen the show, is thoroughly explored in season one. Raylan, the novel, is another good candidate.
Although this next series is long and benefits from being read in order, you certainly don’t have to. John Sandford’s Prey series is a lot of fun for a crime series. The sense of humor and wit displayed between Lucas and his colleagues is reminiscent of Raylan and his fellow U.S. Marshals. My favorite is Certain Prey, though I haven’t reviewed that one (here’s Stolen Prey).
Travis Mulhauser’s Sweetgirl is set in Michigan, but 16 year old Percy reminded me so much of Loretta. The dialogue was fantastic, even though the setting and the subject matter are bleak.
For some drug fueled fights, of which there are more than a few in Justified, try out Frank Bill’s Donnybrook (with one of my favorite book covers of all time). Set in Southern Indiana, Donnybrook is a three day fight, winner takes all. Jarhead is from Kentucky and he’s convinced that his ticket to a better life is one last fight with a cash prize so big it’ll solve all his problems, but he has some competition…
A story of treasure hunting and a drug empire in post-Katrina Louisiana, The Marauders by Tom Cooper is funnier than it has any right to be. Lindquist is pretty much Dewey Crowe. So expect the novel to have a good bit of humor.
Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale is another crime novel with a twist, but Lansdale wit and ear for dialogue is incomparable.
And finally, no list of Justified-style recommendations would be complete without a Cormac McCarthy novel. In this case, I am recommending No Country for Old Men. Although it takes place near the Mexican border, it does feature an drug deal gone awry. There are several story lines from Justified of this nature, including one of my favorites featuring Boyd in Mexico. Worth a very, very brutal read.
If you haven’t watched Justified, I suggest taking a step back, reevaluating your life, and correcting this glaring omission. I honestly believe it’s one of the best shows in at least the past two decades. Perhaps crime isn’t you genre? Well, I have other lists for the Gilmore Girls fan, or perhaps Deadwood. I’ve even covered Twin Peaks.