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Taking his latest fictive turn in Hollywood, Leonard, whose oeuvre includes screenplays as well as such bestselling novels as Glitz and Freaky Deaky , adds insider knowledge to his signature humor in this roundly satisfying behind-the-scenes tour of filmdom. Slightly disaffected Chili Palmer, a small-time loan shark with big-time style, is a vintage Leonard hero. Following a bad debt from Miami to Las Vegas and on to Beverly Hills, Chili hooks up with Harry Zimm, once a leading director of grade-B horror flicks, now trying to make a comeback. While succumbing to the siren call of celluloid, Chili also narrows in on the bad debt, in the process running up against a sharp-dressing hood with whose money Harry has played too loose. In Leonard's seamless handling, the complex plot flows through twists of revenge, murder and romance, as Chili, his authentic cool making a mark in the capital of sham (``Don't talk when you don't have to'' is his very un-Hollywood motto), cagily gets it together with Karen Flores, Harry's former lover and featured star. A perfect resolution puts punch in the title and will keep readers smiling for days. Chili and his story are Leonard's best yet. First serial rights to Rolling Stone; BOMC and QPB selections; major ad/promo, author tour. (Aug.)