My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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-studios is so pitch perfect that it made for prime movie material.
As always with Leonard’s work it’s the characters who provide more enjoyment than the cast-iron plot, and Chili Palmer and his cohorts are some of the best he’s created, particularly the divine comic creature Harry Zimm. The book would be worth it for the interplay between the characters alone, but Leonard’s narrative of bored loan shark using his old tricks to find a home in the B-movie business rolls along at a cracking pace, with humorous delights on every page. It’s rollicking fun, pitch perfect in tone and intent, and an utter joy to read.