Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Get Shorty

Book description

A thriller filled with Leonard's signatures - scathing wit, crackling dialogue, twisted plot, mad scams - and set in the drug sodden world of Hollywood.

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Get Shorty as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Elmore Leonard knew the vagaries of the movie business back to front, and he serves them up on a platter of delicious satire in this story about an East Coast loan shark, Chili Palmer, who comes to Los Angeles chasing a deadbeat debtor and winds up in his own fractured fairy tale version of the Hollywood dream.

Chili’s an endearing character, street smart with a unique blend of humility and self-confidence. When his collection job throws him into company with a group of movie people, he sees them and their milieu with clear-eyed objectivity.

Talking to an underworld associate, he…

From Marjorie's list on crime about Hollywood.

Leonard taught me that writing spare prose, and depicting a likable protagonist who isn’t clearly moral or immoral could be made to work.

Before I read this fun, somewhat satirical novel, I felt that I needed to make my characters likable by infusing them with salutary traits or making them funny. Leonard opened my eyes to what was possible, which made this novel quite entertaining for me.

As with Westlake, the author gets in the head of the protagonist, explaining his internal process in a way that doesn’t alienate the reader, even as his enforcer is slugging someone. This isn’t…

Chilli Palmer, the main man in Get Shorty, is an unforgettable character capable of thinking way outside the box and acting on it. The book keeps the reader off balance as Leonard introduces one far-out character after another. The fast-paced novel takes liberal swipes at characters trying to make it in Hollywood.

From Ray's list on wise guys you’ll love.

Nobody wrote dialogue better than Elmore Leonard and nowhere did he write it better than in his 1990 Hollywood caper novel Get Shorty. The gangster patter. The Hollywood schmooze. The schmoozers’ strained imitations of gangster patter. The novel sends Miami shylock (and unabashed movie fan) Chili Palmer to Vegas to collect a debt, and thence to L.A. where he enters the demimonde of low-budget film production in hopes of parlaying his chutzpa and street smarts into a bona fide Hollywood production. Leonard certainly knew Hollywood, and Hollywood loved Elmore Leonard, adapting his novels and short stories into such outsized…

Leonard has written so many great novels, but my favorite is Get Shorty, which combines everything I love – pulpy crime fiction, great characters, and show business. Take some gangsters trying to collect on an outstanding debt and set them down in Hollywood. What could go wrong? Everything! That’s why this book is so great on so many levels. And if you ever want to learn how to write really great dialogue, just pick any of Leonard’s novels. There is no better teacher. 

From Andy's list on show business.

Every crime writer loves Raymond Chandler, but there’s one author they idolize above all others: Elmore Leonard. There’s a reason Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing continually makes the rounds; he knew how to keep readers turning the pages, most notably by leaving out the stuff that people are likely to skip. Get Shorty is my favorite of Leonard’s books. It’s funny. All of the characters are people you’d like to have a drink with. And the action takes place in a world that has always fascinated me: Hollywood. This book is just terrific fun.

Hollywood is full of bottom feeders and lowlifes, and nobody does these types of characters better than Elmore Leonard. His dialogue is spot on and his situations comically dark. A Florida loan shark chases a deadbeat customer all the way to Hollywood and winds up getting involved in a complex film deal that makes his life as a mobster seem tame by comparison.

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