Be Cool (Chili Palmer, #2)

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

Check Price Now


Crime Crime Fiction Currently Reading Default Detective Fiction General Mystery Thriller To Read

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


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.


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.

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.


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.


Of late, I've been unlucky in love. I've been disengaged, annoyed, indifferent and just plain restless. My romance with reading was in jeopardy and I needed to do something about it. It seemed like every book I picked up in the past few weeks was either over-written, dreary, boring or something . . .If only all life's problems were as simple to resolve as this one: pick up an Elmore Leonard book and life becomes vibrant and technicolour again.I don't know if Be Cool is necessarily any more clever or fast-paced than his other, equally enjoyable books, but I was really in the mood to be entertained and this delivered. I picked this particular book to pull me out of my lethargy because in a recent book-signing Leonard enscribed my book "Be Cool." I decided that this book must be the place to start learning the art. It was great.


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.

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.


Get Shorty was a great film; Be Cool was not. Leonard's novel was a better followup than the resulting Travolta-Thurman flick, and my impressions of it as a sequel are based on having seen Get Shorty but not having read it.Be Cool is standard Elmore Leonard -- 300 pages of crime hijinks, sex, guns, and one badass being more badass than the other badasses and saying badass things while he's at it. Into this mix toss an indictment of the record industry -- the slimy promoters, the mercurial loyalties of talent and management alike, the raw deals that come out of otherwise perfectly reasonable expectations -- some gangster rappers living too close to their own lyrics, and some Russian Mobsters and you've got Be Cool. Good times.On the other hand, some of it echoes Get Shorty (the movie, at least, not that it matters) a bit too strongly -- Chili Palmer runs afoul of a black guy thinks he's bigger fish than he is (Bo Catlett in Shorty, Raji in Cool), who has some muscle (Bear, who used to be in pictures, now Elliott, who wants to be) but whom is won over by Palmer and tosses his former boss off a building. It's striking that these archetypes come right back into Chili's life. It's also weird that Leonard seems to have modeled Elliott directly after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who ended up playing the character in the movie: half-black, half-Samoan, and his signature move is the Single-Eyebrow-Raise. Elliott is gay, though, and I don't think Mr. The Rock swings that way.Chili Palmer himself seems to be a sociopath. His every action is motivated by his desire to see how it plays out, can he use the result in a movie? instead of by concern for or interest in the people involved. And he is almost certainly not John Travolta. His apparent badassery is less about confidence and swagger than about a complete lack of interest in consequences. He's a shark.


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.


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.

William Galaini

Charming, but forgettable almost the hour you finish it, Be Cool is a mild distraction. Having not read the first book, but having seen the film Get Shorty, I was pretty excited to snatch this novel up off the shelf.First off, it is surprisingly bland, with characters built for the sake of 'quirk' without actually functioning as people. We aren't compelled by their conflicts and we don't find them particularly insightful. The absurd situations that spring up are somewhat inorganic and clearly occur for the sake of a plot outline, not for the sake of character conflict or propelling the narrative.Secondly, the writing doesn't spring out at all. It is amazingly non-committal when describing characters, and when expressing the motion of events not a lot of detail or verb variety is employed. It makes the novel not very engaging.There are a few smiles to be had, and some of the situations can be funny. There is a particular character with a surprising aspect that I think could have been played up a bit more as well (you'll know them if you read it) but overall, there just isn't much to say regarding this novel. It isn't a 'bad' novel or a 'good' novel it is merely a novel.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *