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The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel (John MacRae Books) [Paperback]

George V. Higgins
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
JACKIE BROWN at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Dated Groundbreaker Aug. 8 2002
By A. Ross
Format:Paperback
A seminal book in the world of crime fiction, Higgins' 1970 debut placed maximum emphasis on creating realistic dialogue for the criminals and police and letting that carry a fairly slender plot along. The story concerns a smalltime hood named Eddie Coyle and a loose ring of associates. He's sweating because he's facing a two year stretch, and he can't handle any time at his age (45). The question is, who's he going to throw to the cops in order to duck that time? The story and its resolution are very much in keeping with the dark tone of the early '70s when the nation was realizing Vietnam was unwinnable and hard drugs were getting more and more prevalent, think of films like The French Connection, Badlands, or High Plains Drifter. (I've not seen the 1973 film version of the book, starring Roger Mitchum as Eddie Coyle.)
The book has been greatly lauded for its simplicity, dialogue, and realistic characters. However, my own reading was that everyone in the book (men, women, law, criminals) spoke more or less the same clipped wise guy talk as everyone else, and not only that, but other than talking about the "Broons" (Boston's pro hockey team, the Bruins), there's little that differentiates the speech from that of countless New York and Brooklyn gangsters. So much so that one occasionally has a hard time keeping track of who is who. So, maybe it was revolutionary to reveal the inner woes of criminals back in 1970, but read today, the book lacks the punch it must once have held.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 10 Pages of Greatness Dec 1 2000
Format:Paperback
This book has a great reputation, particularly for the crackling dialogue, and I must say I was in complete agreement for the first 10 pages, which took me through the end of the brilliant first chapter. After that, you start to notice that everybody in this book -- the good guys, the bad guys, their wives, girlfriends -- _everybody_ talks exactly the same, some sort of blue-collar, Cliff-Klaven-meets-Edward-G-Robinson patois. It's lazy writing and the result is that the characters all kind of blur together. Tack on a "so what?" ending and you get a two-star book, plus one extra star for the first chapter, which really is terrific.
If you like crime novels, your best bets are Ray Chandler, Jim Thompson or Joe Wambaugh. You may enjoy Chandler or Wambaugh even if you _don't_ particularly like crime novels. Thompson has probably too much of what Southey would call "the yell of savage rage, the shriek of agony, the groan of death" for the unsuspecting reader.
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5.0 out of 5 stars streetwise dialogue Oct. 13 2000
Format:Paperback
Eddie Coyle is a low-level Boston hood, supplying mobsters with handguns. He earned his nickname, "Fingers", after one gun deal went poorly & he had his hand slammed in a drawer, giving him an extra set of knuckles on his left hand. Once in a while the mob throws him some more lucrative work, but on the last such opportunity he was arrested in New Hampshire illegally trucking liquor. Now he faces three to five years in prison and as he says: "Well, ...I got three kids and a wife at home, and I can't afford to do no more time, you know? The kids're growing up and they go to school, and the other kids make fun of them and all. Hell, I'm almost forty-five years old."
The only way Eddie can avoid prison is to trade information & he's soon caught in between the Feds, his gun dealer & the Mob. George V. Higgin's debut novel (now almost thirty years old) is notable for it's streetwise dialogue and the nearly Shakespearean sense of tragedy (well, at least, Billy "Sonnets" Shakespeare) that surrounds Eddie.
GRADE: A
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dialogue that spits June 24 2000
Format:Paperback
I first read The Friends of Eddie Coyle 25 years ago and I can still remember the opening lines (Jackie Brown, at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns.) It is a shame Higgins is gone. He was the true master of dialogue. This was the book that drove my desire to write crime fiction myself. It is the story of the real-life poor SOBs who are just trying to make it day to day in a world moving way too fast for them. It is real, which is why I believe I enjoyed it so much ... and can still remember the characters so well (not to mention the dialogue). This is a story of how it really goes in the underworld. The Godfather is for the simple minded fantasy seekers; George V. Higgins was the real deal.
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2.0 out of 5 stars incredibly accurate but uninvolving Sept. 13 2000
Format:Paperback
The story is told from such a lofty perspective that you never care about what is happening. Even the worst hood has some sense of importance and urgency to their lives. But Coyle and company are just presented here as vermin under a microscope.
As for the vaunted accuracy of the dialogue, I believe this book does fall down a bit. It shows that there is very little variation between the club-tongued lower class dialect of Boston and Brooklynese. As a lifelong resident of the Boston area, I believe this is inaccurate. The only person I know of that has successfully captured the Boston dialect in the media is John Ratzenberger playing the Cliff Clavin character in the TV programm "Cheers".
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