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The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel [Paperback]

George V. Higgins , Dennis Lehane
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 27 2010
The classic novel from "America's best crime novelist" (Time), with a new introduction by Dennis Lehane

George V. Higgins's seminal crime novel is a down-and-dirty tale of thieves, mobsters, and cops on the mean streets of Boston. When small-time gunrunner Eddie Coyle is convicted on a felony, he's looking at three years in the pen--that is, unless he sells out one of his big-fish clients to the DA. But which of the many hoods, gunmen, and executioners whom he calls his friends should he send up the river? Told almost entirely in crackling dialogue by a vivid cast of lowlifes and detectives, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is one of the greatest crime novels ever written.

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel + Cogan's Trade + The Digger's Game
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From Amazon

George V. Higgins's first novel is like a blast of Atlantic air; the Boston prosecutor virtually reinvents the language of the crime novel with his unique ability to breathe life into the dialogue of the smalltime hoodlum and hustler. Trying to pull off one final score, career crook Eddie Coyle finds himself squeezed out of shape by the people above and below him. The explosive conclusion is inevitable yet fascinating. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Rings true as a police siren.”—The Boston Globe

“The best crime novel ever written--makes The Maltese Falcon read like Nancy Drew.”—Elmore Leonard

“Chilling . . . The most penetrating glimpse yet into what seems the real world of crime. . . . Positively reeking with authenticity.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Truly a bravura performance. Higgins is a master of colorful street language heard around Boston. Throughout the novel, without quaintness or self-parody, he is able to sustain long arias of criminal shoptalk. . . . A sophisticated thriller.”—Time

“First-rate, absolutely convincing, enormously readable.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“Simultaneously a brilliant thriller and a cold and convincing business prospectus of felony--a profession that traps both sides, gunmen and policemen, into ceaseless compulsory degardations.”—The New Yorker

“The most powerful and frightening crime novel that I have read this year.  It will be remembered long after the year is over, as marking the debut of a fine original talent.”—Ross Macdonald

“The first thing to know about George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle is that it directly entered the crime-fiction canon upon its 1970 publication. The second thing to know is that it holds up as both a writer’s-writer thriller and as popular pulp, with Dennis Lehane introducing Picador’s new 40th-anniversary reissue of the novel by heralding it as ‘the game-changing crime novel of the last fifty years’—a moderate claim compared to that of Elmore Leonard, who hails it as the best crime novel period.” —Troy Patterson, SLATE

“Weighed and calibrated like the barrel of a pistol. The fact that he's writing about crooks is crucial in some ways, incidental in others. The real subjects here are life's futility and its bleak humor… Elmore Leonard learned from this novel, likewise David Mamet and of course Quentin Tarantino, who saw the narrative virtue in marrying violence to comedies of manners…. Higgins took the tough-guy novel into areas of demented anthropology and re-created a genre.” —Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times




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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
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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