My Month of Crime Fiction: Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard Shorty (1990) by Elmore Leonard

"...that wasn't the movie, that was real life. He kept getting the two mixed up, Chili's Hollywood Adventure and whatever the other one was..."

How you guys could have let me go 24 years without telling me to read Elmore Leonard I'll never understand. Why, why did you not tell me to read Get Shorty? I mean, I had heard of the movie, but had no knowledge of Elmore Leonard or other contemporary crime writers. No- I was buried in the 19th century, which was fine, but now I'm needing to catch up to more contemporary writing in a big way because a lot of it is pretty awesome.
But back to Get Shorty. Each page broadcasts the fun that Leonard must have had writing this novel, one which gets very "meta" very quickly. At first it's just Chili-the-mobster going out to Vegas to haul Leo's sorry backside and the money he skipped town with back to Miami and Leo's wife Fay. But before you can even say "give me the f***ing money," Chili's in Hollywood, hobnobbing with actors, producers, and writers, and pitching a story that sounds uncannily like the story of his own life. Except Chili's, you know, super-cool and that kind of intrigues everyone he meets. I mean, the mobster from Miami talking film like it's in his blood, even though he knows next to nothing about it.

Fact is, though, Chili's been developing this talent for storytelling and directing for much of his life, getting people to, *e-hem*, do what he politely asked them to do (which usually involved paying back loans with sky-high interest) and maneuvering around people who wanted to kill him by going after them first or getting lucky by being in the right place at the right time. Pretty soon, Chili's starting to get confused about which story is his life and which is the script that his friend Harry is pitching to the studios (Chili keeps revising the latter with help from some actors). Leonard ups the ante further by abandoning the usual paragraph style at times and writing instead in script form, as if the novel itself is slowly turning into a film script.

And even with all of these goings-on, Chili is chasing one guy down for money while another guy is chasing him down for revenge. Everybody's trying to figure out everybody else's next move, and it's one crazy ride, let me tell you. Highly recommended.

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