cover image Be Cool

Be Cool

Elmore Leonard. Delacorte Press, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33391-7

In Get Shorty (1990), Leonard skewered the film industry in a rollicking crime read that became not only a bestselling book but also a megahit movie. This razor-sharp sequel veers from the venality, egomania and basic bad taste of the movies with the similar attributes of the pop-music business. After one hit (Get Leo) and one flop (Get Lost), Chili Palmer, former loan shark and now movie producer, thinks the record industry is fertile ground for his next flick. He hasn't lost touch with his old Brooklyn friends, though, and while lunching with one he witnesses his pal's mob-style murder. As he's not a serious suspect, Chili becomes friendly with the investigating LAPD detective. He has also become interested in Texas-bred singer Linda Moon and her effort to break into the biz, which puts him on the wrong side of her inept but murderous manager, Raji. When a Russian gangster is found shot dead in Chili's house, matters complicate further as Chili wades through a rogues' gallery including more Russians, a mob hit man, seriously criminal gangsta rappers, Raji's giant gay Samoan bodyguard and assorted other denizens of La La Land. Chili remains a compulsively appealing character throughout, retaining his immaculate cool in lethal situations as those around him wallow in pretension and hypocrisy. Leonard's plotting is as propulsive as ever and his desert-dry wit continues to flare at high heat. Nearly every sentence of this novel reads as if it's dipped in gold. This is a knockout work from a master crime writer: be cool, and relish it. Major ad/promo; simultaneous BDD audio; author tour. (Feb.)