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


An easy, amusing read, but something of a time-waster as there were no lessons to be learned, no personal insight to be shared, nothing memorable. Soooo not my scene.

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.


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.

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.

Elisabeth Crisp

It's embarrassing to admit that this is the first Elmore Leonard book I've read. Even more embarrassing is that I chose this one because it was available for immediate download from the public library. Look past pragmatism for a moment. Be Cool is more than Chili Palmer #2. It's a send up of the entire genre of movie sequels.Leonard is a master of plot. Protagonist Chili Palmer puts a plan in motion to see what happens next. If it works, the scene stays in the picture. If it doesn't, he'll let the screenwriter fix it. He keeps his options open. That's the beauty of Be Cool. The book never steps outside of the box of Hollywood players to examine itself as literature. Yes, it's not as good as Get Shorty or I should say, Get Leo, Chili's fictional first movie. But . . . a sequel never is.Leonard's point of view is so deep that Chili slides easily from retelling scenes to living them, violating the rule of no flashback by essentially becoming an anti-flashback. I love the characters, the music business topicality, and the unexpected violence. Be Cool is labeled crime fiction. Crime farce is a better description.The ending isn't my favorite. It's like an epilogue, tacked on after the essential action is over. Here, Elmore Leonard fails to follow his own advice, to leave out the parts people skip. Maybe, my disappointment has to do with a Kindle edition packed at the end with pages advertising his other works. I wasn't prepared for the story to be over like I would be if I held a printed copy in my hand. Or maybe, Leonard left me dissatisfied on purpose--to leave room for Chili Palmer #3.


I realized after rating "Be Cool" that I have rated all the Elmore Leonard books I have read three stars. This may be unfair; I absolutely LOVE Elmore Leonard. I guess since I devour his books so quickly and they go down so easily they tend to not make much of an impact or be terribly memorable. Yet, they are just great books. Pitch-perfect, hilarious, exciting, gritty, always delicious. I love Elmore Leonard, so much I can’t find enough food metaphors to describe him and his writing. At any rate, probably all of his books should be five stars, but I guess out of snobbery or general lack of weight, I have rated them all three stars. In deference to my love of Elmore, I am hereby revising my rating of this book to four stars, even though it’s probably my least favorite of the books of his that I have read. Oh well. I’m doing it and it feels good! It’s for the grading curve in general, I suppose.As for "Be Cool" itself, I enjoyed it a lot up until the climax, which really is a misnomer in this case. This book ended too abruptly, having so many fun and widely varied plot threads, they all have to collapse at the last minute. As I finished the book on the plane back from my vacation, with 20 pages left I turned to my fiancée and said: "there's a lot to cover in the last 20 pages of this book." Unfortunately, I don’t think it all got "covered" sufficiently; "paid off sufficiently" might be more along the lines what I mean -- everything wrapped up, I suppose, just not in a terribly satisfying or awesome way.That said, it was still a super-fun book, full of hilarious characters and just incredible dialogue. You can tell why some great movies have been made from Leonard’s oeuvre: he writes the best "crime fiction" dialogue out there. I wouldn’t recommend anybody start reading his work with "Be Cool" but it’s certainly a worthy installment in an awesome body of work.


The opening scene, where Chili Palmer is having lunch with a man who ends up getting shot by a hitman, is pretty good. But don't expect the story to be about that crime. There are vague murmurings about possible connections with the Russian mafia but by and large the scene is nothing more than a hook to get you into the story, then forgotten about soon after. This book is a lot like Get Shorty except that it's about a singer instead of a laundromat owner. The whole "let's describe what's really happening as if we're making a movie" thing comes back full force, and it gets a little old. There's even the formerly evil thug that has a change of heart and saves the day, just like in the last one. My suggestion would be to read either Get Shorty or Be Cool, but not both. The story just isn't good enough to be read twice in a row.

Jim B

The writing is shallow -- the author also of "Get Shorty" -- stays too close to real life in writing about an author whose best seller was "Get Leo" starring a too short actor, obviously referring to Danny DeVito. Ho Hum.

Rachael Quinn

What I love about the Chili Palmer books is how tongue in cheek they are about themselves. It's like watching a really good spoof. In fact, the movie was almost exactly like that, exciting but funny with little asides about not doing cameos. In the first chapter, Chili says that a sequel has to be better than an original. Leonard pulls that off with this book. Actually, the whole book really pokes fun and sequels to the point where all of the people you are supposed to like prefer the first of Palmer's movies, Get Leo, and the bad guys like Get Lost.I forget how I described Get Shorty but I think I called it a riotous rollercoaster ride, or something of the sort. That's exactly how Be Cool is. You have a lot of characters for the length of book and they all play a roll in it somehow, even if it's just a bit part.Palmer calls a dating service one night and has a long conversation with a girl who calls herself Linda Moon. He records the call and starts playing it back to himself, thinking that maybe there is a movie to be made out of it. Linda belongs to a singing group called The Chicks, managed by Raji who has a gay Samoan body guard named Elliot, but what she really wants is for her old band, Odessa, to get back together and to make the record they wanted to make in the first place. When an old acquaintance of Chili's who was in the record business is shot by a Russian wearing a bad rug while they're at lunch, Chili decides it might be time to get into the music business. What follows is a crazy, hilarious romp with people trying to kill Chili and Chili playing people off of each other.I really liked these books. They're not my usual style but I love anything that will get me laughing out loud in public.

Sarah B.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it as much as other Leonard books. It's set in Hollywood, and although the main character Chili Palmer is out-of-place (having missed both movies, I managed to picture a middle-aged retrosexual and not John Travolta for Chili), the rest of the characters are mostly pretty terrible Hollywood stereotype people. I didn't want to know them better and I didn't care if they succeeded or failed to achieve their superficial desires. Except Eliot: him I loved. Fortunately, Leonard's talent for writing -- especially for writing dialogue -- kept me engaged even when the plot didn't.

Sincere W.

Jesus, if I'm ever able to write dialogue this well I can die a happy man. This is a fun read, full of interesting characters and very funny scenes. There's Shylocks, gay Samoans, rappers, music execs and a healthy dose of gangsters. The characters develop in unexpected yet logical ways. And the interactions between characters is crisp and authentic.The story concept - if that's what you'd call it - is damn clever, too. The main character, Chili Palmer is putting together what's to be his third movie, and this the backbone of the book's plot. Palmer's creative process flows along with the story, so that "actual events" in the book become possible scenes for Palmer's upcoming flick. It made reading the book feel like having a magician explain the trick while he's doing it - and still finding yourself amazed.I haven't read this book's prequel (Get Shorty). But I was never lost or confused; Be Cool stands on it's own. And the small segments of backstory are so well integrated as to be invisible.Great story. Looking forward to reading it again.

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.

Tom Marcinko

The sequel to Get Shorty. Not quite as funny, but then what is? Aerosmith is immortalized in this novel.Some quotes:“But as far as it being illegal, I always saw it as a gray area, open to question.”“…the people I was alleged to have been associated with.”Maybe putting him on and telling the truth at the same time.“I forgot,” Linda said, “you used to be a crook.” “Actually, I never thought of myself that way.”“…What’s he need a bodyguard for?” “I guess,” Linda said, “‘cause he’s such an asshole.”“…you have to hire a lawyer and put up with him acting like they do.”“…I hit him with a book Tommy was reading—it’s there on the table, the Tom Clancy?…”“All you’ll get out of Derek,” Chili said, “is a better understanding of Beavis and Butt-head.”“I talk to that asshole,” Nick said, “I have to lie down after. He throws me off my rhythm. I don’t know why, but I start thinking when I’m talking to him instead of just talking.”“What’s that mean, I belonged to a gang? I never did, I was only, you might say, loosely connected.”“…you’ll regret it as long as you live, if that.”“Actually,” Tiffany said from the doorway to her office, “he had two sets of books. Tommy said in case he lost one or there was a fire.”He heard Curtis on the phone say, “You passed the stone, huh? That’s great, man. What’d you do with the Demerol?”“See if he’ll rat on the guy he works for.”“You say ‘rat out’ now. Yeah, well…”[Lusitania, now in production:] Edie: “Pulled out of the water with a bunch of survivors and taken aboard the U-boat. She falls in love with Johnny Depp. He hides her in his cabin…” Derek Stones said, “He jump her?” Edie: “He hides her when the shoot the survivors out of a torpedo tube, alive, screaming…” Elaine: “That’s being revised.” Edie: “I read it in Entertainment Weekly.” Hy: “And they oughta know.”Hy asked him where his nose ring was. Derek said, “I got a fuckin cold, man, and can’t blow my nose with the ring in it.”“…’Fuck ‘em,’ meaning the test audience. ‘What do they know?’ The studio tells him, ‘We go along with what Kurosawa said, “The essence of film is showing people what they want to see.”’”This surveillance shit wasn’t as easy as it looked.


This is just my first Elmore Leonard novel, though I've been a fan of his writing through his works that have made it to the big screen, especially Get Shorty. Not surprising that I found this cinematic. I appreciate the humor he puts into it and the cleverness of his story-telling. I also like the realistic dialog and interesting characters. I would definitely read another book by him.


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.

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