This collection features four novels by the prolific crime novelist Elmore Leonard. These books were originally published throughout the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s.
The first book featured is ‘Get Shorty’, the first novel featuring Chili Palmer. Published in 1990, this may be, arguably, one of Leonard’s best known novels, due in part to the insanely popular movie version starring John Travolta and Rene Russo.
“Ernesto Palmer got the name Chili originally because he was hot-tempered as a kid growing up. The name given to him by his dad, who worked on the docks for the Bull Line when he wasn't drinking. 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. Chili said the secret was in how you prepped the loan customer. “
Elmore Leonard usually chose Miami or Detroit as the setting for his crime novels, but with ‘Get Shorty’, he tackles Hollywood and the movie industry, and absolutely nails it!
The title, as many people know, is legendary, with ‘Shorty’ referring to Dustin Hoffman, the actor who was supposed to star in the movie version of Leonard’s book, “LaBrava,”, but contract negotiations fell through, which is a nice bit of trivia.
I think what made this book stand out for readers, and later, movie audiences, is the Hollywood theme. Just like the characters in this book, we have found Hollywood and the movie industry endlessly fascinating. Even crooks are drawn to it, and oddly enough, they seem to fit right in…
Naturally, the story has all of Elmore’s signature complex plotting, zippy dialogue, and zany characters, but in this case the sly, almost dark, humor is what really shines. This is also why this book translated so well to the big screen, in my opinion.
This is one of Leonard’s more mainstream successes and is a big fan favorite. For me personally, I have to say it’s pretty high up on my list, too. 4.5 stars
Next up is: Rum Punch
While I love all the books featured in this collection, ‘Rum Punch’ has to be my favorite.
I despise book reviews that compare books and movies, especially since this is not a movie critique. However, in this case, due to some significant differences, I feel I should mention that Jackie Burke, is white, and of course everyone knows Jackie Brown is black. Also the locations are different, with the book’s being set in Florida and the movie in L. A.
Also, there are a few threads in the book that are played down in the movie or are not featured at all.
However, if you have read the book and did not see the movie, you will be very impressed by the treatment it received. By the same token, if you have seen the movie, you will REALLY like the book!
This is one of the most stylish capers Elmore devised, and once more he creates a ‘back against the wall’ situation where people have to take action or pay dearly, and the prize is certainly worth the risks.
Ordell is sharp, thinks fast and thinks ahead, but he is forced to accept Jackie’s terms or he doesn’t get his cash. With all that money on the line, everyone ups their game, and how it all went down is nothing short of incredible. I was on the edge of my seat, wiping my sweaty palms, the first time I read this book.
I couldn’t help but admire Jackie, and she has become a favorite character for me. While I realize she is a criminal, she’s very likable, too, very gutsy and quick on her feet, but hey, you don’t want to put in a corner because she WILL come out swinging!!
This is a gritty crime tale, with plenty of action, some pretty graphic violence in some cases, but overall, the plot is shrewd, with impeccable timing, and as always a stellar cast of greedy, double and triple crossing characters, all dreaming of a little ‘retirement money.’
5 big stars!
The third book featured is: Out of Sight
"Foley had never seen a prison where you could walk right up to the fence without getting shot."—
This is romance Elmore Leonard style!
Jack Foley, bank robber, and Karen Sisco, US Marshall, are thrust together after Foley escapes prison. The pair forges a very unusual relationship which leaves Karen quite conflicted.
Karen makes for an interesting character study, with her flaws causing blurred lines between right and wrong.
I don’t know if it’s fair or even right to say this plot was probably one the least plausible in EL’s long string of hits, but regardless it is a high octane tale and wildly entertaining.
This is another novel adapted for the big screen, this one starring George Clooney and is another great book to movie transition.
Rounding out the set is Tishomingo Blues
This is an interesting book to include in this set, I think. This one has a southern accent and is centered around Dennis Lenahan, a high dive expert who takes a job in a Mississippi casino, jumping from eighty feet into nine feet of water. But, that’s what daredevils do, but Dennis gets more daring than he bargained for when he witnesses a mob style hit while eighty feet in the air.
Civil war reenactments, a Detroit con artist, and the Dixie Mafia… what a combo! The vernacular used in this one is jarring, and was not my favorite. This book is fun, do doubt, and while this sounds like a ridiculous statement, it was a little off the beaten path for Elmore. The sharp dialogue seen in most of Leonard’s novels, tended to fall flat in this one.
Of the four books featured here, this is the only one that never made it to the big screen, although a movie version was planned, it never came to fruition.
For me personally, this was the weakest of the four books included in this set, but oddly enough, it has been said this book was one of EL’s personal favorites.
However, all in all, this is a fine representation of EL’s later novels, which gives the reader a sampling of this prolific author’s wide ranging talent for plots, characters, and his trademark dialogue.
Once more, I would like to applaud the quality of this hardcover box set which is very sturdy, printed on high quality paper, making it a book any fan will want to display or would make an excellent gift.
As always, it is a pleasure to revisit these novels, refreshing my memory on these awesome stories, humbly reminding me of how incredibly versatile Elmore Leonard was.
The box set collectively gets a 4.5 star rating.
Four hardboiled novels from America's modern master of crime fiction, edited and with an introduction by Leonard's long-term employee, researcher and friend. A must-have, collectable edition of four of Elmore Leonard's most popular novels, written later in his career. Included are the books: Get Shorty (1990), Rum Punch (1992), Out of Sight (1996) and Tishomingo Blues (2002).