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BE COOL by Elmore Leonard


by Elmore Leonard

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-33391-9
Publisher: Delacorte

Nine years after his farcical conquest of Hollywood in Get Shorty, former loan shark Chili Palmer aims to scale equally unlikely new heights as a music producer. As you’d expect, it all happens more or less by accident. Stung by the failure of Get Lost, the sequel to his triumphant debut, Get Leo, Chili’s not sure what story will put him back on top of Hollywood’s greasy pole. Should his comeback film be about a rocker like Linda Moon, a singer who works for a dating service, or about a record producer like Chili’s acquaintance Tommy Athens? The decision gets complicated when Tommy is executed in the middle of a power lunch with Chili, and when Chili tells Raji, the pimplike manager of Linda’s girl group, that Linda is suddenly free to reconvene her old band Odessa (“AC/DC meets Patsy Cline”) because Chili himself will be managing her from now on. In short order, then, Chili’s getting serious homicidal attention from the outraged Raji, his gay Samoan bodyguard, and the shooter who took out Tommy Athens—all helping to explain the dead man in Chili’s living room. (Raji’s hit man, chagrined at having zapped another hit man by mistake, aptly observes that people are lining up to kill this guy.) A lesser executive would be toast. But not Chili, with his unshakeable confidence and his would-be killers’ boundless capacity for self-delusion: he tells one assassin he’ll get him a screen test, manufactures for a second the tale of a scam only Chili can straighten out, and puts himself in the middle of a deal a third needs to clinch before he can murder Chili. As the corpses who aren’t Chili pile up, Leonard (Cuba Libre, 1998, etc.) tosses off a dozen new spins on Get Shorty’s gorgeous premise—that nobody can run the entertainment industry as well as a low-level mobster armed with Leonard’s endless stream of wisecracks—to produce a good-natured thriller as relaxing as it is exhilarating.