Justified: Peter Leonard's new novel brings his dad's Raylan Givens character to Detroit


Peter Leonard and his book Raylan Goes to Detroit

Raylan Givens has been to a lot of places: Miami, Florida; Harlan County, Kentucky; Glynco, Georgia. And now he’s come to the Motor City in the riveting Raylan Goes to Detroit by Michigan-based author Peter Leonard

After an altercation with his boss, Raylan is given two choices: retire or take a job on the fugitive task force in Detroit. “His former boss gets him reinstated but the only opening is in Detroit and he takes it,” Leonard says. “Raylan’s been in a lot of places, so I decided to do something different. I live in the Detroit area, let’s bring him here.” 

Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens first appeared in one of Peter's father's books -- Elmore Leonard’s 1993 novel Pronto -- and has since appeared in three novels, a short story collection, a made for TV movie, and most recently in the FX’s Justified. Seeing the character onscreen for six seasons helped convince Leonard to write the book. “I knew the character really well,” he says. “I felt very comfortable in [Givens’] boots and Stetson, so I decided to take my shot.” 

A prolific writer, Leonard has published eight books.

The intense Quiver follows Katie McCall, recently widowed in an almost unimaginable way. While she deals with her grief and that of her son, she also has to contend with her ex-con ex-boyfriend who has suddenly reappeared with some decidedly unsavory associates in tow. Leonard’s second novel, Trust Me, stars a woman conniving to get $300,000 from her old boyfriend -- if his nephew or a pair of hitmen don’t get to the money first. Eyes Closed Tight features a former Detroit homicide detective turned Florida hotel owner who unexpectedly finds a dead woman on his lounge chair. All He Saw Was the Girl takes readers to Rome and crashes two explosive storylines together. Unknown Remains is the tale of a Wall Street trader working in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and his wife who learns that she is broke, that her husband owes the mob almost a million dollars, and that she wasn’t married to the man she thought she was.

Leonard’s spellbinding Voices of the Dead and Back from the Dead books feature Detroit based Holocaust survivor and scrap-metal dealer Harry Levin. In Voices, Levin is on the trail of the German diplomat who drove drunkenly and killed Levin’s daughter. In the follow-up, Levin hunts the Nazi he thought he killed before, but now he must finish the job. “I read a number of books about the Holocaust,” Leonard says. “Particularly about the soldiers -- regular guys who drove cabs, were bartenders but then became Nazis and did horrible things. While in Germany, I visited the Dachau death camp and began thinking about the idea that led to this book and to the character of the Detroit scrap dealer, Harry Levin.”

In Raylan Goes to Detroit, Givens and his new partner, FBI Agent Nora Sanchez, pursue Jose Rindo, a dangerous criminal wanted for the murder of an FBI agent. When Rindo escapes, Givens and Sanchez embark on an epic journey across Arizona to California and finally into Mexico where the two officers have neither authority or jurisdiction but do have the will to bring Rindo to justice. 

Before he started writing novels, Leonard enjoyed a successful career in advertising that spanned almost 30 years. “I’d been thinking about [writing] when I happened to stop by my dad’s house on the way home from making an [advertising] pitch to Volkswagen. My dad’s wearing jeans and a Nine Inch Nails shirt and there I am in my coat and tie. My dad picked up a piece of paper he’d been writing on and started reading ... he was so enthusiastic and into his work. That was my epiphany and about six months later I started writing Quiver.” 

Leonard laughs, “I was over 50 years old when I started writing novels -- and when you hit 50 and want to write a book, you’d better get going!”

Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband.

Peter Leonard will read from "Raylan Goes to Detroit" at Literati, 124 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, on January 10 at 7 pm.