“Pronto” by Elmore Leonard Review



Author:  Elmore Leonard

Published:  1993

This seems like one of those books that the context of who’s reading it and when will make a huge difference in how you view it. I’m reading this after having watched all of Justified, one of my favorite television shows of all time. I haven’t read much other Elmore Leonard, and picked this up due to my fondness for Raylan Givens.

Pronto is a story about Harry Arno, a bookie whose life is about to get screwed up when he’s accused of skimming money from the local crime boss. Part of it is actually a plot by the justice department to make him testify against the crime boss, another part is that he actually has been skimming, and another part is that the crime boss has at least three people working for him that are interested in moving up the criminal ladder. It’s a bit convoluted, and at some point Raylan Givens shows up as well.

Raylan (in both the book and the tv show) is a United States Marshall born in Harlan Kentucky who’s a deadshot with the gun and a cool customer in general. Him and Harry go back because Harry skipped out on Raylan a few years ago and Raylan believes it’s partially responsible for his being stuck doing less than what he’s capable for for the Marshall’s office. Raylan ends up tangled up in all of Harry’s drama and pursues it well beyond the call of duty for… reasons I guess. If I hadn’t watched the show I wouldn’t get enough of an outline of his character to (ahem) justify all of his actions in the second half of this book.

In addition there’s Joyce, the ex-stripper who’s in a relationship with Harry and Robert Gee, the former French legionnaire whose character is also thinly sketched. While I enjoyed what a quick read this is (plan on about 2 hours or so to read the whole book) I never felt convinced of either Joyce or Robert’s involvement with Harry and willingness to do what they do throughout the book. Raylan also felt pretty overly invested but he was such a fun character and in line with how he’s portrayed in the show I could forgive it.

Fans of the show will likely be anticipating how this will end and won’t be disappointed in one particular scene. There are a few details about his personal life that differ from the show. Without seeing how Leonard develops them in later novels, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it could make for an interesting arc for the character. As it stands, this was a quick enough read to flesh out one of the big moments from Raylan’s past. Its focus on so many supporting characters, many of whom I found unconvincing in their motivations left it a bit middle of the pack overall.

3 star

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