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.


10 thoughts on “Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard

  1. Angel Eyes was alright I thought… J Lo is a much better actor than singer – you gotta give me Out Of Sight at least cos she’s excellent in that (although my favourite in the film is Michael Keaton then Don Cheadle)…

    Love a bit of Elmore, never given the short stories much thought though. I shall rectify this glaring deficiency forthwith.

    I thought Jackie Brown was much weaker than the source novel.


    1. I found Angel Eyes extremely weird. I kept waiting for the point and I truly thought Jim Caviezel was going to turn out to be a psychotic serial killer. I was surprised when it turned out to be a love story. You’re right, she is a better actor than a singer and that says nothing good at all. I do like Out of Sight though. I didn’t hate Jersey Girl and I sort of enjoy Anaconda in a so bad it’s good kind of way.

      Rum Punch is better than Jackie Brown, I think it’s one of his best novels. Of the ones I’ve read, there have only been two of his novels I haven’t enjoyed: The Hot Kid and Raylan.

      I anticipate your life will greatly improve with these short stories. At the very least, no harm will be done.


  2. Mr. O has been bugging me to watch Out of Sight for years, and now I have to. I didn’t realize it was based on an Elmore Leonard book! Thanks for the helpful review! And dear god Paula Patton’s dress was terrible. I liked Elisabeth Moss’s and Amy & Tina’s inside dresses. But I missed Michelle Dockery & Kate Mara, so I’ll have to go look those up.


    1. It’s not so bad, although what I enjoy about it certainly isn’t Jennifer Lopez.

      Elisabeth Moss’ dress was good, but the hair was unfortunate. I did like Amy & Tina’s inside dresses as well. I’d also add Drew Barrymore to the worst dressed list.

      Apparently I have a thing for silvery/white dresses this year, as most of my favorites fell in that category. Sandra Bullock looked like one of those 3 colored popsicles I enjoyed as a kid..

      Also, I’ll be in Mass this week (Thurs-Sat), though I don’t know my schedule yet.


  3. I must avert my eyes when it comes to a J-Lo movie. My soul just can’t take it but maybe with an Elmore Leonard adapted work I could deal. I’m a big fan of Get Shorty and 3:10 to Yuma. If I gave in to every temptation to procrastinate, I would be watching Justified, but I haven’t had a chance yet. I kinda like what Emma Watson was doing last it a dress? it a hospital gown? who knows! but still distinct.


    1. Out of Sight isn’t bad, if you overlook JLo it’s pretty good (and she isn’t terrible in it, but she is herself). Justified is one of the best things on television. I’m not quite current, but what I’ve watched is excellent.

      I almost always like Emma Watson’s outfits. Last night’s was interesting, but not bad. And I think hospital gowns would be greatly improved if one were allowed to wear leggings underneath.


      1. I finally felt motivated to watch the first couple episodes of Justified last night. Really great and now I’m officially hooked. I always enjoyed Elmore Leonard and I have had a soft spot for Timothy Olyphant.


    1. I’m sure you would’ve looked that fabulous if you had a designer gown, a stylist, and a make-up artist working on you for hours before being photographed by professional photographers.

      That being said, she does look unfairly gorgeous. Pregnancy really suits her.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: