Tonight marks a brand new season of the FX show Justified coming back. Oh boy how do I enjoy that show. It's got all the marks I love. Trigger happy law men, Hillbillies, Moonshine, and it's all filmed in Santa Clarita. Can't get anymore Kentucky than that in Southern California.
So what is Justified? It's a modern-day western based on characters created by Elmore Leonard. The series was created by Graham Yost, who worked on Boomtown and had a hand in Band of Brothers.
The series is centered around U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant, who got an Emmy nomination and a TV IV choice award for his performance last year). Raylan's a throwback to the 19th century's brand of lawman; he's cool and collected, at least on the surface. (As his ex-wife Winona explains to him, "You're the angriest man I know.") He's also got a fast gun and a true aim. He will shoot you dead if you pull a gun on someone you're not supposed to, and he will sleep soundly afterwards. He's the kind of guy that gives a Miami mob boss 24 hours to leave town, and guns him down after he fails to comply (even though the gangster pulled first).
After this stunt, Raylan is transferred from his plush post in Miami to one in Lexington, which oversees his old home of Harlan County. Harlan County might as well be the Wild West; years of distrusting authority has bred an environment of lawlessness and poverty. Of course, that makes Raylan the perfect man to come in and clean it up, one little bit at a time.
The primary conflict of the series is between Raylan and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, The Shield), though "conflict" is an odd word to describe their situation. Raylan and Boyd were best friends who worked in the mines, escaping some hairy situations together. After Raylan left town, Boyd followed in his father's footsteps and became a crime lord, leading a group of neo-Nazis in all sorts of criminal misadventures, usually involving a rocket launcher. (Boyd does not believe in the Aryan ideology; it's really a front that gets him attention.) However, the events of the pilot kick off a strange, fascinating journey for him, and both Raylan and Boyd tend to find themselves working toward similar goals, by different means and for different reasons. Boyd really is a funhouse mirror image of Raylan, and their interactions are often the best part of the show.
And after getting hooked on the show, you'll probably want to read more about these characters. The character is introduced in Pronto and Riding the Rap, but the star of those books is arguably the crafty aging bookie Harry Arno. As mentioned before, Raylan's big story is "Fire in the Hole", which can be found in Leonard's collection When the Women Come Out to Dance.
Also, Leonard wrote a new Raylan Givens novel, ten years after the publication of "Fire in the Hole". Raylan is currently scheduled to come out on January 31st. So join me, if you will, in drinking some Apple Pie and watching some Justified on FX.