Books: Another red hot Chili caper

Be Cool by Elmore Leonard Viking pounds 16.99

Watch out - visitors will keep trying to walk away with your copy

of Elmore Leonard's latest novel

Elmore Leonard's latest may deserve rave reviews but it surely does not need them. This is the hardest book to keep in the house because visitors, regardless of age and gender, will keep on trying to walk out with it hidden under their coats. Small wonder. It crackles along, all fired up on energy, verve and wit. It's brilliantly talky, and the way people bounce off each other across a wide ethnic range is more sparky and brainy than anything since Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat. Occasionally the talk climaxes on a breathtaking extended sequence that most fiction writers would die for. One such offers five non-stop pages in which a pop music promoter makes serial telephone calls in creep-speak, wearing his headset and pushing buttons at speed. Almost every walk-on character in this book has enough verbal panache to start his or her own TV show.

Elmore Leonard has a Dickensian flair for fixing fictional characters by making them inseparable from visual or verbal mannerisms. Thus, Raji the dude exists for us in relation to the angles of his Kangol hat. Joe Lupino is forever an open mouth grossly chewing on creamed coleslaw. Nick, the crook turned indie promoter, is welded to his headset. "Take away his phone, he dies," as his partner observes, sagely. These devices double as repeating refrains that give a nice rhythm to the story. A certain recurring red aluminium baseball bat is another such rhythmic marker. "This is aluminium, you dumb fuck," opines the guinea nigga-hater, one- up-ishly. "You want a wood bat, not this piece of shit." But the bat has been bought precisely to obliterate pieces of shit, so guess who's the dumb fuck now?

Another rhythmic marker is the sound of people flying through high-rise plate glass. "They always scream like that," says the dude's Herculean bodyguard. The occasional, well-judged lapse in taste causes an especial rush of glee - as when Tiffany the Mohawk enters bearing her boss's ashes in a funeral urn balanced on a take-out pizza box. "I thought the white porcelain with iris petals," she says to the grieving widow. "You can go solid bronze but that's a thousand bucks."

The cleverness of this book lies in the author's ability to sustain the informality and pace without limiting his viewpoint. He does this by using a third person narration that reads as though it's a first person narration. His trick is to get the author voice so in synch with the voice of his hero, Chili Palmer, that the two rub along together like old friends and sparring partners. This way, a reader can relish the punchy asides along with the exploding dialogue, whether or not Chili himself is on stage.

And the story? Chili Palmer, ex-loan shark turned film producer, is back, trying his hand as manager in the LA music business, with a view to constructing a film treatment on the subject. Being Chili, he succeeds, within weeks, in taking his client, Linda Moon - wet-dream gorgeous and a singing style like AC/DC crossed with Patsy Cline - and turning her into a star. This though he finds her languishing in a girl act called Chicks International and doing a day job as telephone receptionist in a dating agency. Chili makes it with no previous experience in the business, although he's being shot at concurrently by the Russian mob and the hitmen hired by rival managers. Meanwhile, he's developing a movie idea about a singer called Linda Moon who is languishing in a girl act called Chicks International while her manager is being shot at by the Russian mob ...

This is a story about constructing a story, but will Chili be alive at the finale? Of course! As his name suggests, he's hot; he's cool; he's a triumph. He works brilliantly as a character because his creator understands the uses of inversion. Chili is cool because he doesn't carry a gun and he doesn't own a mobile telephone. He's cool because he lights his cigars with kitchen matches and always wears a suit and tie while the rest of the guys go with whatever smart-casual constitutes the prevailing style. Chili has strictly non-style furniture, because he's got too much style to need style.

Any complaints? Pish! There's a whiff of research overload in the data on Russian Mafia hierarchies. And this reader couldn't believe that Chili would set up the Ropa-dope rappers to get massacred by the mob. It gives symmetry to the story, okay, but that smashing Elaine, 40-plus and Chili's current bedfellow, will dump him when she finds out.

Arts and Entertainment
music

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain