Mar 312017

I loved the seasons of Justified that I’ve watched, and reading this novel is like hearing the TV from another room. So the writers and producers must be doing something right when it comes to the adaptation.

Ultimately though, however much I might enjoy watching something like Justified, my head just doesn’t work when it comes to reading the source fiction. Names don’t stick. I don’t notice the details that stitch together the ins-and-outs of what the bad guys are doing. Worse, I don’t care that I’m not able to make the links. For me, reading crime fiction means pages are flipped, words are read, but the plot just happens in a buzzing, oddly narcotic haze populated by shadows.

I think that the pleasure hard-boiled crime novels—like this one, like The Maltese Falcon—offer their reader is a chance to watch a blank figure of archaic masculine virtue struggle to do a difficult job in a modern world. This man is thrown about and put in danger, but he survives and eventually wins, and he does this through force of character alone. I imagine this is a fairly obvious observation about the genre.

What’s odd though is that, while I dislike reading this kind of crime fiction almost as a rule, I often enjoy watching it when it’s adapted to film or television. What’s going on?

My hunch is that the relevant difference is this: ogling a stylishly photographed strong, silent type of the sort offered up by crime fiction is good fun but identifying with one (which is what reading positions me to do) isn’t. In other words, I enjoy desiring Timothy Olyphant but find no pleasure in desiring to be a tough guy.

Feb 112012

The last week of winter break I watched the first season of Justified. It was on Netflix, so the price was right and the renting was easy. And after a bit of googling helped me figure out what order to watch the mislabelled episodes in, I got sucked into this big time.

Two things grabbed me. First, Timothy Olyphant. I watched him in Deadwood and thought he was extraordinary. From there I’d wandered briefly into the movies. On the one hand, there was The Girl Next Door. This movie is funny. It also introduced me to Emile Hirsch, definitely a plus. But also, it’s not really my thing. On the other hand there is Hitman a movie I shut off after the first hour. What a big stinking turd. So, my thought was: here’s an actor I like and with potential but with nothing to see him in worth watching. Enter Justified. Olyphant is a character actor and this series is tailored to show him at his best. It’s good enough even that, after listening in from in front of his computer for a few days, the Beav sat down on the couch and actually watched a couple episodes directly.

The second thing that grabbed me was the landscape. This is a police procedural that doesn’t happen in police departments or in crime scenes. Instead, it’s very much an on-location visit-and-chat show à la Murder She Wrote or Castle. But with grit. The thing is that the landscapes they move through are the familiar southern woods of my childhood. I simply loved watching the scenery in this show.