Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The story centres around Chili Palmer, a small-time loanshark based in Miami, who is sent after one Leo Devoe, who has scammed an airline out of $300,000 by faking his own death. Leo's trail takes him to Las Vegas, where he finds a more interesting assignment: the casino is looking to collect from Harry Zimm, a horror film producer based in Los Angeles. Palmer, himself interested in the movie industry, takes the extra assignment and heads for Los Angeles.
Palmer lets his interest in the movie industry overshadow his collection job. He sneaks into Zimm's house in the middle of the night, startling both Zimm and his girlfriend Karen Flores, and explains that he has a "great idea" for a movie. Zimm is immediately taken in by Palmer's charm, although Flores is still skeptical, as Palmer recounts Leo Devoe's story and his story chasing him to Las Vegas as if it were an uncompleted work of fiction. Flores quickly points out that the story clearly isn't fictional, she saw it on the news the past week, and Palmer is the loan shark.
Nevertheless, Zimm lets Palmer in on his business, telling him that he has a script which he believes could be Academy Award worthy material. There are, however, two problems: he doesn't own the script, which costs $500,000; and he guaranteed a $200,000 investment from Bo Catlett, a local limo driver and drug dealer, to another movie which he said would be made first (Zimm gambled the $200,000 away in hopes of making the $500,000 he needed). In an altercation with Catlett, Zimm and Palmer tell him that, while his investment is sound, they are making another movie first. Catlett tells them to move the money into this new picture; Zimm reluctantly agrees.
Meanwhile, Catlett is involved in a drug deal which doesn't go through. He has left the payment in a locker at the airport, but the Columbian sent to receive the money, Yayo, doesn't feel safe unlocking the locker with so many drug officials staked out nearby. Catlett takes Yayo back to his place and kills him.
Catlett offers the money to Zimm as an investment, telling him to send Palmer to get the money. Palmer senses something amiss, signs out a nearby locker as a test, and surely enough is taken for questioning by drug officials when he tries to open it.
Desperate for money, Zimm also seeks the aid of Ray "Bones" Barboni, whom Palmer was collecting for, wondering if the money Palmer collected from Leo Devoe could be invested in his film. Palmer and Flores are meanwhile seeking the interests of Martin Weir, a top-tier Hollywood actor to whom Flores was once married, to play the lead in Zimm's film.
The loose ends are tied up when Barboni comes to Los Angeles looking for the money Palmer collected from Leo Devoe only to find the key to the locker from the failed drug deal in one of Palmer's pockets. Thinking Palmer has stashed his cash in a locker, he goes to the airport and is busted by drug officials. In a final showdown with Catlett, Catlett is double-crossed by his partner, Bear.
The novel ends with Zimm, Palmer and Flores having visited a few production studios and wondering why writing the ending of a story was always the hardest part.
A 1995 film, Get Shorty, based on the novel, was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starred John Travolta as Chili Palmer, Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm, Rene Russo as Karen Flores, Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett, Dennis Farina as Ray "Bones" Barboni, James Gandolfini as Bear (Catlett's partner), David Paymer as Leo and Danny DeVito as Martin Weir. The plot remained very true to the book although some minor details were changed. In the novel, Palmer and Flores attempt to woo Weir in a nightclub, whilst in the movie they visit his house. In the movie there is an additional confrontation between Zimm and Bones which results in Zimm getting a concussion and being accused of killing a partner of Catlett's, whom Bones shot when he walked in on the altercation; this is excluded from the novel. The ending is also slightly different.
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