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Get Shorty (Chili Palmer #1)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  14,029 ratings  ·  390 reviews
Mob-connected loan shark Chili Palmer is sick of the Miami grind—plus his “friends” have a bad habit of dying there. So when he chases a deadbeat client out to Hollywood, Chili figures he might like to stay. This town, with its dream-makers, glitter, hucksters, and liars—plus gorgeous, partially clad would-be starlets everywhere you look—seems ideal for an enterprising cri ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by HarperCollins HarperTorch (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Elmore Leonard had a bad Hollywood experience in the mid-‘80s of working on a film adaptation of LaBrava with Dustin Hoffman. Leonard did multiple unpaid rewrites at the actor’s request, but then Hoffman bailed on the project after six months of meetings leaving Leonard with nothing to show for his time. Leonard’s revenge was Get Shorty and what sweet revenge it is.

Chili Palmer is a small time loan shark in Miami who once got into a beef with another gangster, Ray Barboni, who has held a grudge
Week before last I took a trip by myself. It’s one of my favorite things to do, to disappear off the grid, to land up someplace in a [slightly sketchy; always slightly sketchy] motel. It’s not so much a vacation from anything as it is just a change of scenery.

One of the rules, and it hasn’t failed yet, is to make as many new friends as possible. I can do this on trips, because there’s so much wide open space of solitude that it’s hardly an intrusion. I’ll talk to anyone. I’ll talk to a lamppost.
8/5 - I had real trouble getting into the plot and unusual dialogue style and ended up giving up at page 95. I'm not sure if it was the book or my preoccupation with my recovery, so one day (hopefully this year) I'll give it another go.
Jane Stewart
I enjoyed watching the character Chili, but I was disappointed with unfinished events at the end.

The value of this book is watching a collection of characters and the shallowness of movie-making. It was different and good. But I can’t say I really liked it. Each time I put it down I had no desire to get back to it.

Chili is a wise guy loan shark. He doesn’t use a gun. His style of intimidation is quiet, making the victim imagine bad things will happen if he doesn’t p
I had been meaning to read Elmore Leonard for years, ever since seeing movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I knew Quentin Tarantino was a big fan and was heavily influenced by Leonard. So, after much surfing and emailing, I determined Get Shorty was likely the best novel to start with. It was pretty good, but a really light read.

What makes Leonard's writing shine is the dialogue; you've heard the overused "dialogue crackles" rave? Well Leonard really delivers...this is why his novels ma
Mark Dawson
George Higgins might have been an influence on the late, great Elmore Leonard but, for me at least, there is no-one who nails dialogue quite like Duke. It's a great regret that I never got to meet the man because he's a hero. But it's more than dialogue, isn't it? Opening lines, pacing, plotting - he could do all of it, and it seemed to be completely effortless. I think he's written better books than this, but it's the one that brought me to him and so I still have a soft spot for it. Chilli Pal ...more
Wayne Barrett
Elmore Leonard is a genius at character development and dialogue. A couple of spots where the script in question was drug out a little too long and an unimpressive scene with a handrail kept this from being a 5 star. As a whole the story was very entertaining and was a book that was hard to put down.
On a side note: if you are an aspiring writer, you won't find a better lesson in dialogue than Elmore Leonard.
Nate D
Probably one of our better current pulp stylists. This is one of the more popular, probably partly due to the movie. Junk, mostly, but of the best kind.

My parents had a lot of these kicking around the house, so there was a period where I picked them up whenever I ran out books.
I think, for a brief moment, I was expecting something a bit heavier when I picked this up - but (and I know I'm saying it again) the whole thing ended up being like Elmore Leonard had saddled up at the table next to me and started spinning a tale about his friend Chili Palmer and the mess he got himself into. It was cozy, it was funny, it was off-the-cuff without trying to be, and it popped. Doesn't make me any more interested in going to LA - but damned if I'm not smiling as I think about Chil ...more
Leonard is a respected writer by many of writers as well readers. He has a way of paring down the story and characters dialogue that moves quickly across the pages. The end of this edition has an interview a few years back between Leonard and Martin Amis where each discusses their writing style. This book is a take on Hollywood and the colorful characters that inhabit that enchanted land. The dialogue, character driven story moves fast and the end was upon me before I even knew it. I'll dip into ...more
Lee Battersby
Entertaining, funny, tongue-in-cheek collision of the twinned fraudulent worlds of the small time hood and the small time Hollywood hanger-on, with a menagerie of only partially self-aware characters in the best Leonard tradition. It's a romp in the grand old fashion, and it's easy to see why this was such a hit as a movie-- Hollywood loves nothing more than proving it's hip to its own faults, and Leonard's acerbic take on the grimy, desperate world that springs up in the shadows of the mega-stu ...more
Mark Desrosiers
My first Elmore Leonard novel, and all the hype & rep is 100% on the money: nimble dialogue-driven plot, zero exposition, groovy approach to prose that suggests grammar well-learned then tossed into the backseat, memorable and sympathetic characters on both sides of the crosshairs. Here, the plot involves a Florida shylock who is somewhat forced to make his mark in Hollywood, become some sort of producer or even inventor of plots involving his own escapades -- that last bit gets very meta, b ...more
David Williams
Get Shorty is considered to be one of Elmore Leonard's great novels. Like all Leonard stories I have encountered it is a wonderful experience to read. The story is amusing. A man who runs a dry cleaning business owes money to a loan shark. He misses a plane, but his luggage doesn't. When the plane goes down the dry cleaner is believed dead. He and his wife keep quite to collect the insurance money and settle a lawsuit with the airline. Once they get the money the man leaves his wife with the cas ...more
My first Elmore Leonard book, and great fun. I knew going in that Leonard has an ear for dialog, but that didn't make it any less of a delight. And it's not even that he has an ear for New York mobster dialog, or Hollywood schmuck dialog, although he certainly does. But I would say more that Leonard creates his own internal speech patterns--characters throughout the book drop verbs in much the same way, elide their sentences in a way that flows nicely together and works naturally for spoken dial ...more
This was my first Elmore Leonard novel, and a good choice I think. Though first published in 1990, this story has aged extremely well and was a lot of fun. Main character Chili Palmer is very likeable - despite mob ties and loansharking activities - but even more surprisingly, he's believable. And so are the other main players. There's no invincible, unimpeachable hero; there are 'mean motherf-ers' but not a trace of "pure evil" bad-guys; and the extras are good, bad, and ugly in equal portions. ...more
This one started very slow for me, although I must admit the last 25% moved quickly. It's quite a caper where mob collector, Chili, follows a criminally-liable deadbeat to Vegas and then Los Angeles and decides he'd rather be in the movie business than collect the mob's bad debts. Soon real life becomes a movie script.

I've not seen the movie, but I can imagine John Travolta playing Chili.

Perhaps not quite to my taste.

Reading Harder Challenge: book by an author of a different gender.
Sue Herbert
I approached Elmore Leonard with caution, because I'm British and I tend to read a lot of classic books. Leonard's language is American, modern, stylised and for me a bit difficult to get into. But I loved 'Get Shorty', it made me laugh out loud. My son borrowed it after me and when he asked me what it was about, I said 'It's about a leather jacket'. That puzzled him a bit, but afterwards he said 'It is, isn't it, because that's what starts it all off!'.

Chilli Palmer is a great character - noth
John Mchugh
Better than the movie, and I loved the movie. This is the first Elmore Leonard book I have read. (I know. I know.) It was like giving your brain an afternoon at the spa. Refreshing. Relaxing.Rejuvenating. With frequent amusing moments. The narrative is more densely packed than a Robert Parker story, but the ride is just as smooth. I'll be back for more, Elmore. Very soon.
Evan Clark
This book was disappointingly average.

I'm a great fan of Leonard's early work, particularly the Big Bounce and Mr. Majestyk, so I was excited to try this one out. It just felt a little flat at first, and became even more so as it went on. I wanted to really like the characters, but the presentation left me unawed. Not a bad book by any means, if if this is your genre then go ahead and enjoy it more than I could. I simply was hoping for more.
been wanting to read some elmore leonard since i love the show justified. he has a unique, casual writing style that sometimes takes a few tries as a reader to get the tone right. in the end, feels like a friend telling you a story though. i'll be reading more elmore leonard after this one.
It's been years since I saw the film version of Get Shorty, so I came to this one more or less clean. And, as with Elmore Leonard's other books, this one doesn't disappoint. In some ways, it's review-proof. You have all the usual Leonard stuff: wiseguys and smart ladies, whip-smart dialogue, lapses of morality and struggles for redemption, cons, shylocks, dupes, and broads. It's all here, only this time it's set against the backdrop of the Hollywood studio system, which is easily as amoral as th ...more
I'm trying to clean up my list of "books/authors I haven't read, that cause people to stare at me in fascinated horror when they find I haven't read them!" Elmore Leonard is one. Of course I've seen the movie Get Shorty & after perusing a few lists, figured this would be the book to start with. Lots of fun - Hollywood & Miami setting, which made me feel warm, that was a plus! Wonderful dialogue, well-drawn characters, tight plot. I'm not a huge fan of crime fiction but I'm glad I read th ...more
Dan N.
A friend at the University of Chicago once mentioned to me that he thought Elmore Leonard one of the best writers of our generation, underrated but deserving of the title. I had read some of his early western novels, and thought they were fairly good. I never had a chance to read one of his crime novels, until now.

Reading this book, I had a greater appreciation of Leonard as the mature and gifted author. The story centers on Chili Palmer, a recently retired loan shark from Miami who breaks into
John P
In this novel Mr. Leonard had me guessing at first. I couldn't make out that the 'bad guy' we first meet is actually the 'good guy' of the novel. His dark and shady past and his violent temper do not automatically shout "Hey, like me. Identify with me." In the bulk of the novel and through to the end however, Chili exhibits consistent honesty and clear thinking. Character development is strong for a few others that we meet; one wonders where Mr. Leonard learned about this class of people and the ...more
Amanda (awesome)
The story's great. The plot's great, the movie's great, but that's not why I loved this book.

Here I am trying to plot out my next book and along comes this gem which is basically a meta-exploration of story-telling, from that first glint of a good idea, to the way it falls apart on you, again and again, but can be bolstered with flashes of insight and workshopping with others.

This scene kills me, where a shylock asks a drug dealer if he knows how to write a screenplay, and the dealer responds,

Stefanie Kramer
"I try to leave out the parts readers skip." -Leonard Elmore

Get Shorty ain't no page skipping book. It was time for me to read a Leonard Elmore book and I after reading Get Shorty, I get the appeal.

Get Shorty is a story about a shylock. Actually, it's about a good shylock and a bad shylock. No, that's not right either. It's about a good shylock, a bad shylock and a really bad shylock. Oh! And an actor who wants to play a shylock. The plot twists are certainly engaging enough with the setting mai
Good...but surprisingly, the movie was better !
Barbara VA
This was my first Elmore Leonard and what a fun read! Yes, I have seen the movie so I do come in a bit jaded but it was just such fun, I just loved this. The Hollywood culture is so cleanly defined. Is it the way things really are? Not being in the business I cannot say, but it sure makes sense based on how messed up most books get going from page to screen!
Elmore Leonard's world is fairly flat, morally. His protagonists are usually just slightly better than their enemies, justice doesn't always get served, and he often ends books with his main characters on the brink of a moral decision. No one is really righteous, so the coolest survive.

All this just serves to take a lot of pressure off the narrative, and gives Leonard's twisting plots plenty of room to play.

"Get Shorty" is a prime example of this. The main character is a loan shark with mob ties
Ex mafia type gets interested in the movies, has some boring chat, does over a few pretty idiotic people, kind of gets the girl. Not exciting in any way. With the other books I've disliked off the list, I could at least understand why they might have made it. But this was just a yawn from start to finish. Disappointing.
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  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6)
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  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle
  • The Thin Man
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  • Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady - Volume 1 (of 9)
  • Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins #1)
  • Miami Blues
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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“There were a lot of terms you had to learn, as opposed to the shylock business where all you had to know how to say was 'Give me the fuckin money.” 7 likes
“Ernesto Palmer got the name Chili originally because he was hot-tempered as a kid...Now he was Chili, Tommy Carlo said, because he had chilled down and didn't need the hot temper. All he had to do was turn his eyes dead when he looked at a slow pay, not say more than three words, and the guy would sell his wife's car to make the payment.” 2 likes
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