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4.3 out of 5 stars11
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on June 11, 2015
Anthony Bourdain was right. This is an outstanding crime novel and written with grit and brutal honesty.
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on July 16, 2014
Classic fiction. Must have. Must read. You won't be disappointed.
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on August 8, 2002
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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on January 8, 2001
I read a list by James Ellroy where he listed Higgins as one of his major influences, so I bought this one. I was pleasantly surprised.
The story is very simple, the dialog is incredibly lifelike and readable. The characters are very real and the story is believable. Its not really a mystery as much as it is a story about some criminals and what they think and feel.
Warning, though. Don't buy this if you like the 'high concept' plots of Grisham and Patterson. This is a very simple story about real people and real criminals. If you're an aspiring writer of crime fiction, definitely check it out especially the dialog.
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on December 1, 2000
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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on October 13, 2000
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.
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on September 13, 2000
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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on June 24, 2000
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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on December 28, 1999
Possibly the best account of real life crime, gangsters, and cut throats ever written...a rare insight into the real world of low level criminals, proving "There is no honor amongst thieves"...having been born, raised, and lived in the neighborhoods depicted in this novel, I can honestly say..."This story is all too real relative to Boston area criminals and their alleged loyaties...this book is a masterpiece...
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on December 7, 1999
George V. Higgins has made a career writing books that are mostly dialogue/monologue focused pieces infused with the idiom of his native Boston. None is better than The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Here, better than most of his books, a host of characters comes alive out of the give and take of small talk and rambling conversations, and a (for Higgins) tight plot emerges as well. This is both an exciting story and interesting character study of small time hoods in the big world. True Americana and not to be missed.
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