Miscellanea, Reviews

Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard

Tonight Hollywood Foreign Press honored the best of television and film in 2013*. In honor of the Golden Globes, let’s discuss the worst movies ever made – starting with Gigli, moving on to Maid in Manhattan, Anaconda, and What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and ending with Angel Eyes and Enough. What do all of these have in common? Jennifer Lopez. You may be wondering how I can possibly make a list of atrocious J.Lo movies smoothly segue into a literature discussion. Frankly, at this point, so am I. But I’m getting there. It takes a lot for me to be willing to watch Jenny from the block and even more for me to admit to liking something she starred in. I found myself in the unique position of doing just that when I recently enjoyed Out of Sight. Will I go so far as to give J.Lo credit? No. Should I? Maybe… What I will do is give all due credit to the superb novel that the film was based on. Elmore Leonard’s Out of Sight introduced shotgun-wielding, unlucky in love Federal Marshal Karen Cisco (played by Lopez in the film) – a favorite character of mine. Karen reappears in the short story collection Fire in the Hole (previously released as When the Women Come Out to Dance), which is one of the reasons I initially picked up this book.

Fire in the Hole

Elmore Leonard was one of the rare authors who excelled at both the novel and short story format. Fire in the Hole is a near perfect collection of short stories. Aside from reintroducing Karen, Leonard revisits several characters from Tishomingo Blues and devotes one of the collection’s novellas to Raylan Givens, the star of Riding the Rap and Pronto. Raylan’s story, aptly titled “Fire in the Hole”, is my favorite of the collection and the basis for one the best shows currently on television – Justified.

“Fire in the Hole”, by far the longest story in the book, examines the relationship between two friends who find themselves on different sides of the law. Raylan and Boyd are both from Harlan County, Kentucky, they mined coal together. Raylan became a U.S. Marshal and Boyd became a criminal and a white supremacist. After Boyd blows up a church, Raylan enters the investigation. They find themselves at odds. In “Hanging Out in Buena Vista”, two retirees have a conversation. That’s all there is to the story, but it’s the funniest in the collection. An unhappily married women looks for a permanent solution to her marriage in “When the Women Come Out to Dance”. There are no weaknesses in these stories, although the two western stories (out of nine) don’t fit quite as well within the overall confines of the collection.

Whenever I recommend a book from Elmore Leonard’s backlist, I always start with this collection. As he is neither a writer of westerns, nor strictly a crime novelist (often pigeonholed in either one of the other), Leonard offers something for everyone. His works defy classification, anything can and does happen in his stories. Fire in the Hole/When Women Come Out to Dance offers a broad range of what makes the author so appealing – it showcases his wit, his dialogue, his grit, and his humor.  I’d highly recommend it. 4/5 and a must read for Elmore Leonard fans.

Are you an Elmore Leonard fan or are you more familiar with the films based on his books (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, 3:10 to Yuma, etc.)? Did you watch the Golden Globes? If you did, did you have a favorite (or least favorite, ahem Paula Patton) dress? You can see my list below.


Naturally, this collection needs to be served with Kentucky bourbon. If you’re feeling ambitions, you could also fry something (chicken, okra, whatever), but that’s beyond my culinary skill set.

*Let’s be honest, the best part of the evening is the evening wear. Naomi Watts, Michelle Dockery, Kate Mara, and Olivia Wilde were my favorite, while Zoe Saldana, Sandra Bullock, and Paula Patton were my least favorite.


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