Top positive review
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Just very, very cool
on 22 November 2011
Chili Palmer is a Miami loan shark, collecting Mob money. When he follows a bad debt to las Vegas, then Hollywood, he finds himself drawn into the movie world, a place where he encounters lowlife and big players in equal measure. Harry Zimm is a b-movie producer who asks Chili to help persuade top star Michael Weir to appear in a new film. Chili, meanwhile, has movie ideas of his own.
This is the setup for a very original, very funny and cleverly plotted crime story. As usual with Elmore Leonard, the entire deal is very cool, with a lot of attitude. Very few authors can write dialogue like this - believabe and memorable throughout, with even the briefest sentence revealing a lot about a character and his or her world. While some writers are intent only on 'functionality of plot', stripping everything away until you have a 'product' that does an 'effiecient' job, Leonard is too good for that. Instead you get the work of a man who loves to write, and who never creates anything less than a memorable experience for the reader. This is not in any way to suggest that he isn't good at plotting a story - quite the opposite. Read any - and I mean any - of his books, and you'll encounter the work of a master who is completely at ease with his craft. This book is a perfect example.
Forget issues of whether Get Shorty is fast-paced or takes a while to get going - there are plenty of best-selling titles by worthless authors who can tick those boxes in their sleep. Elmore Leonard sets his own pace, telling a fascinating story with characters that are immediately more entertaining than in most other crime novels. Some people talk about Chandler-esque in regard to Leonard books. But for me what really sets him apart is the jazzy, cool prose, and his unique way with dialogue. Pick any few lines at random and it's unmistakably Elmore Leonard. "Get Shorty" is one of his best, and will make you want to read more of the same. The good news is, there's plenty of it.
Chili Palmer returns in a sequel that's just as good (and to some, better), called "Be Cool".