Be Cool (Chili Palmer, #2)

ISBN: 078873430X
ISBN 13: 9780788734304
By: Elmore Leonard Ron McLarty

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About this book

The film 'Get Shorty' was a success on many fronts. It introduced a new style of hip gangster that revised the stereotype of the 'Godfather' series. It also helped relaunch the career of John Travolta. And it brought Elmore Leonard's impressive body of fiction to larger public attention. In Hollywood, such a triumph usually spawns a sequel - a film that rehashes the great jokes and cool scenes of the first film, but with none of the panache that initially inspired audiences.In the beginning of 'Be Cool', the sequel to the novel 'Get Shorty', readers are reminded that Chili Palmer - like his creator - scored a huge success with a gangster film (his was entitled 'Get Leo'). But the sequel, 'Get Lost', was a predictable dud. Rather than follow that sordid story, however, Leonard takes Chili into a totally new direction. He places Chili on a murder investigation (in which he is a prime suspect) and then traces Chili's entry into the music business. Meanwhile, Leonard reveals a whole new cast of fresh, funny, and flaky characters to populate Chili's world, characters like Elliot the gigantic, gay, Samoan bodyguard who lives to be on the stage. Throughout, the voice of John Travolta rings in Chili's every speech (word has it that Travolta has already been cast to reprise the role) as Leonard pokes fun at the Hollywood apparatus and the task of a sequel writer. 'Be Cool' surpasses its original because it is so self-consciously a novel about sequels, about the sometimes cowardice that limits the creativity of the American film industry. It is hard to imagine how Leonard could top the multilayered satire/crime novel/exposé. One only hopes for a sequel. Fans of 'Be Cool' might want to check out music from The Stone Coyotes, the band that served as Leonard's model in the book. -Patrick O'Kelley

Reader's Thoughts

Lawrence Leporte

Maybe 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4 because it's Elmore Leonard.EL is known for his dialogue and economy, but with this one I almost felt as if I was reading a play. Also I have pretty well zero interest in the pop music scene in Los Angeles, so it was something of a struggle for me on that level (unlike Cuba Libre, which piqued my interest in the Spanish-American War, the destruction of the USS Maine, etc). As one would expect, though, the craftsmanship is outstanding and certainly up to EL's usual high standard. The book seems well-researched, which is good, but which also makes it seem a little forced - to be fair, though, it's not as if he was writing about greyhound racing or poker-playing where it'd be easy for a middle-aged guy who knew nothing about it to immerse himself in the scene. A game effort, I say.A page-turner? Possibly, although I picked it up and put it down for weeks and read other things in the meantime.


i've realized that i have a huge problem with books that try to fictionalize the music industry, and it's that they always seem so fake. being a complete and total music nerd, whenever i read a book or story featuring a fictional label, band, or whatever it may be, it kind of makes my skin crawl because it feels so put on. it also highlights the difficulty in coming up with decent names, whether they be for band or label.but that's just a problem that I have -- it's not the only problem this book has. elmore leonard certainly has a way with dialogue, especially of the tough guy, "you talkin' to me?" variety, but it only barely helps out here. the story itself is barely there: be cool is a painfully self-aware sequel to get shorty that not only references the movie made from that book, but also the movie that was to be made from this one. what happens then is that chili palmer (the main character, played by john travolta in both get shorty and be cool) is TOO john travolta, or at least, TOO john travolta's "chili palmer," and other characters are very clearly charicatures of the actors who later went to play them in the movie version (particularly "elliot wilhelm," a very thinly disguised dwayne "the rock" johnson).beyond that, nothing really happens in this book. yeah, sure, there's a firefight at one point. some people get whacked. russian mob. there are threats made. relationships form. a singer tries to live out her dreams. but it's all just anecdotal. so much (read: too much) of this book is chili palmer telling the story of what's happening in the book to turn it into a movie. it's like one of those pictures where it's a mirror image of a guy looking in the mirror at himself looking in the mirror at himself looking in the mirror at himself looking in the mirror at's just not really worth it. i mean, chili himself talks in the book about how sequels are never worth it, and how the sequel to the fictionalized version of get shorty, get leo, was horrible and should have never been made. from what i've heard, the movie version of be cool isn't very good either and neither is the book. go figure.

Thomas A

Be CoolBe Cool By; Elmore Leonard pp. 384 June 2002 25.60 9780060082154 Harper Collins Be Cool was a smart, funny, and exiting novel. It starts out with Chili Palmer, the former Miami loneshark, and his lunch with a friend named Tommy Athens from his days in Brooklyn. When Chili goes up to go to the bathroom, he comes back and watches Tommy gets shot before his own eyes. Chili gets questioned by a cop named Darryl Holmes who helps him through the whole story. They find out that Tommy was killed by a mob hit man (though not an all to accurate one) and that they were not dealing with the Italian Mafia, they were dealing with the Russians. Took place in Los Angeles,California on Beverly blvd Loved all the cussing in the book that’s id the only way I really got min to the book. My feelings about the book are I kinda liked it.

Don Casto

Another great Elmore Leonard tale . . .enhanced with characters and images from the screen. In this book he opens up the world of music performers, the recording industry and assorted the assorted scams, frauds and seaminess that lie just below the surface. His characters speak with voices that are unique and all their own. The story unfolds in their interactions . . .driven by dialog rather than description.This was the second story based on detailing the adventures of "Chili Palmer" . . .memorably played by John Travolta in the movie "Get Shorty." I am looking forward to getting to know more of Leonard's characters although with the recent passing of Mr. Leonard it looks as though there won't be any more of Chili Palmer.


Yes, I read this book because I saw the movie and yes, this is the first Leonard book that I've read. Now that we've got that out of the way, I can kind of see the mass appeal, but it just wasn't for me. However, the story's development from page to screen was quite interesting because the differences were vast. In the movie, Chili could do no wrong, Raji could do no right, and Linda was a pie-in-the sky angel who was as pure as a sapphire sparkle. But Leonard's version was far from that. I found it entertaining to imagine the studio execs snipping and gluing away at the text until they built a Frankenstein hybrid of ideas. Strictly speaking about the book now, the plot was rather thin and even all the spitfire singers, half-Samoans, and mafia whacks jobs that Leonard shook up in a bottle didn't hold my interest as well as I anticipated. Leonard is clearly a screenwriter trapped in a novelist's body. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but as a reader who enjoys character and environmental descriptions, the never-ending dialogue got old real fast. During the rapid-fire conversations, I was barely ever given enough time to stop and consider the characters' motives or gain much sense of compassion or complexity. F this and N that and pretty soon I'd forget who's talking and have to backtrack a bit. Speaking of language, the generous amount of racial affronts didn't bother me out of sheer existence, but rather the fact that it all was so damn outdated. Did I blink and miss this story being set in 1957? I'd previously read several excerpts from Leonard's body of work, which led me to believe I'd enjoy this book more than I actually did. But who knows, I might take a deeper dip into one of his other novels one of these days. I won't swear it off, but I doubt it will be anytime soon.

Edward Chapman

Sequel to Get Shorty and just not up to the original. Chili Palmer is still himself, but the story and the other characters can't compare.


Elmore Leonard pisses me off because he writes so well that, in my nimble mind, the task of writing a novel seems to be a no-brainer. I DO know better. Leonard is so much fun to read because he's so easy to read. That's not to say his writing is simple, far from it. He just does it so well, with a perfect flow to dialogue and exposition. Be Cool is the continued adventures of Chili Palmer and the usual cast of miscreants. Have fun.

Harue Jules

I read the book because I saw the movie, and I agree, Chili Palmer is probably one of the coolest characters ever created. Get Shorty showed us the inner workings of the movie world through a loan shark's eyes. This book takes us behind the scenes of the recording and music industry. The movie's cast was wonderful - and too strong, even - it is hard not to visualize such actors as the Rock (he was brilliant! I never knew he could actually act!), Harvey Keitel (one of my favourites), and Cedric the Entertainer as one reads. But the real icing on the cake for the movie was having Uma Thurman dance with Travolta again (after Pulp Fiction).


I had high expectations for Elmore Leonard - perhaps this wasn't the best introduction. Didn't like the non-grammatical voice his characters would pick up and drop over the course of the story. The music industry plot line and character development on Linda Moon was good and kept interest, but the song and rap lyrics? Please.Definitely dates because of the pop culture references, but not too much.By the end of it, I was ready to be done. He's too smooth, his characters telegraph the next twists too early, and this book's take on race relations is pretty dated.


I didn't realize when picking this up (another book sale cheapo) that it was the sequel to Get Shorty, which I don't think I've ever read or seen. (I kept being bothered by the idea of Travolta as Chili Palmer, though that must be the role he plays.) Even as I figured it out, though, I decided to read it anyway. It certainly looked like it could stand on its own.And for the most part, it did. Fast plot, fast characters, fast action, fast read.Which is basically the problem. Even though billed as the master of contemporary crime fiction, Leonard has no substance in Be Cool. I need to look through my older lists to see what of his I've read -- I seemed to think he was more satire, less face value. But I couldn't find any more than what was on the surface.Blink and you miss it.


This is the first book I've read by the late Elmore Leonard. He has a reputation for being an excellent writer, and I can see why. His style is so clear and simple that I kept finding myself reading bits over and over, looking for a hidden meaning that wasn't there! That's not to say it was not intelligently written; just that I am not used to writing that is so professional and uncluttered. I found it engaging and in parts very clever, but I suppose I'm not a big fan of crime fiction.This book was almost too clever and too neatly written, like watching an expertly crafted episode of a TV cop show put together by a team of writers. There just didn't seem to be much life in the writing - although maybe that's because so many writers imitate Leonard's style. I am used to (and prefer) writing that is a bit more alive, even if that means it's flawed.Still, I enjoyed it, and I'm going to give some more of his books a try.


Mr. Chili Palmer says it himself in this one, his own sequel: “A sequel has to be better’n the original or it’s not gonna work.” And I don’t know that it’s better than Shorty, but it’s sure about as much fun.In fact, the only thing denting this one is that in between the two, I watched the movie Get Shorty. Travolta is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of actor, I think, and I lean towards the latter. He was so not the Chili in my mind and I wish I didn't have to work so hard in this one to picture anyone else but him. In other words, back to the Chili I liked.But that’s all my problem, not the book’s. From the looks of it, I’ll steer clear of the abomination of the movie Be Cool, thank you very much. Which, funny enough, looks to prove the thesis here: once the machine of Hollywood gets its teeth in something, sit back and laugh at how much gets botched.

Rex Fuller

At the Four Seasons...yeah LA not NY, you know I been back a week already. So I'm looking and who comes in but Chili Palmer. Yeah, the man himself. We go back to the old days and he comes over and we catch up. Gives me a Cohiba panatela and we don't light up account of the rules everywhere. And I ask him it bother him the reviews and stuff they say about Be Cool. How they say it don't "measure up" to Get Shorty and "formulaic." And he says, what, he's supposed to read guys who couldn't get something reviewed it would save their life. I nod and say fair point but what does he think about it. Being different than feel. He looks at his cigar and wishes for a nice one inch ash and says box office don't write books. And I say truer words, Chil, truer words. So then he says besides, look at Harlequin and all those chick-lit houses. They got rules for their stuff so tight they want it formulaic. I say I get that and was me I'd make 'em all use normal talk like his books. That'd be my rule. He gives me a wink and leaving says send the books and he'll sign. Then I finish my lunch? They tell me it's all taken care of.


Elmore Leonard's Be Cool was the long-awaited sequel to Get Shorty, but as eager as I was to read it, after I was finished, I was not only disappointed but I realized why it was a terrible idea in the first place. In my review of GS, I described Chili Palmer as a neanderthal at a fencing match. In BC, he's the same neanderthal, except he's learned to fence just in time to go bowling. At the time the book starts, Chili is part of the Hollywood machine; his mobby directness is gone in favor of Hollywood hemming and hawing, or, more accurately, a simpering hybrid of the two.When he faces a threat on par with the limo guys from GS, he's Chili again, except not nearly as clever and quite tired. When he's dealing with the dating service telemarketer he wants to promote as a music act so he can get a movie idea out of it and finish the three-picture deal that came from the end of the first book, he's compromising everywhere, saying one thing and doing another, and generally behaving like a Hollywood douchebag. This brings me to the reason it was such a bad idea: there's no way Chili could have stayed in Hollywood and become anything but. Chili was an engaging character because he was a fish out of water, but the shift from shylock to movie producer is considerably more drastic than the shift from movie producer to music producer. Perhaps a natural way to make a sequel possible, but the book being something of a satire of sequels itself, it falls as flat as most of its kind. Be Cool follows up an excellent story about conflicting dynamics with a weak one about a multimedia project with attitude.


Wow, I had always heard that Elmore Leonard was good, but I sort of didn't believe people...I'm not that into crime fiction and I didn't think I would like it too much. But this was a lot of fun. His dialogue is absolutely perfect, and that is not the most common skill for a pulpy writer. I feel like most of my guilty pleasure writers, like Stephen King or various mystery writers, have good stories but bad dialogue. People don't talk right, but I get so caught up in the narrative that it doesn't matter. But Leonard's characters are just pitch perfect. The story is good too, and I did get into it and I even got a little nervous at the suspenseful parts, but mainly I just enjoyed the flow. (I did listen to this, and the performer was good...that may have helped. I should try reading one to see if there's a difference). I laughed out loud in the car during certain conversations in the book, that's a rare mark of quality. Usually I'm rolling my eyes or saying things like "Oh come ON!" at frustrating characters, so I was grateful for Leonard's skill.

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