Writers Write

Book Review

Be CoolBe Cool by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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.

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