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The Friends of Eddie Coyle [Paperback]

George V. Higgins
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 May 2010
Eddie Coyle is a small-time punk with a big-time problem who to sell out to avoid being sent up again. Eddie works for Jimmy Scalisi, supplying him with guns for a couple of bank jobs. But a cop named Foley is onto Eddie, and he s leaning on him to finger Scalisi, a gang leader with a lot to hide. These and others make up the bunch of hoods, gunmen, thieves, and executioners who are wheeling, dealing, chasing, and stealing in the underworld of Eddie Coyle.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 40TH Anniversary Edition edition (3 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242969X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429690
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 16.6 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 289,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


the best crime novel ever written makes The Maltese Falcon read like Nancy Drew --Elmore Leonard

Simultaneously a brilliant thriller and a cold and convincing business prospectus of felony. --The New Yorker

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

Book Description

'The best crime novel ever written' - Elmore Leonard --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
George V Higgins was a Boston lawyer who took to writing; this is his first book. In it he displays his incredibly sharp ear for the many and various patois of the region; it is so precise that I've often wondered if anybody who has not lived in the Boston area and known its many dialects could truly appreciate the way Higgins captures them. Regardless (or, as they might say in Needham, IRregaddless), there are many other qualities to appreciate: his swift characterizations, his knack for suspense, his deft portrayal of criminals at the edge of their competence and the harried cops who chase them.
If you like Elmore Leonard, you'll like Higgins; indeed, Leonard acknowledges Higgins as one of his primary influences. Later in his literary career, Higgins would occasionally get bogged down in experiments with dialogue and plot - triply nested quotations, multiple flashbacks, excessive detail - but he always remained interesting. In this book, he is at his crispest: vital, perceptive, acute. "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" is a classic that deserves to be placed alongside "The Big Sleep" and "The Maltese Falcon".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listening in on some bad men 17 Dec 2003
By A Customer
The novel is written in dialogue, with very little narrative. This means that you have to work hard to work out the plot. Higgins does not tell you. You are immediatly plunged into the world of a smalltime Boston criminal, Eddie Coyle, as he aims to buy guns for his bank robbing friends, gather useful information to pass on to the police, and stay out of prison for a drink smuggling charge. This seems like a tall order, as he is acutely aware. Previously, Coyle has collected an "extra set of knuckles", after his "friends" shut his fingers in a drawer and kicked it shut(retribution for selling traceable guns).
What is enjoyable about this novel is the sense of eavesdropping on an amoral world. The humour is deadpan and cynical. There is a constant sense of fear and paranoia. The impression that comes through is of the high price to be paid for a life of crime, in terms of mental peace.
Set in the 1970's against a background of student radicalism and racial tension, a bleak portrait of the country emerges. If you like Elmore Leonard, read Higgins to whom he owes an acknowledged debt. The recent film, Mystic River, based on a Dennis Lehane novel and again set in Boston, shares some of the grittiness of this world. It is not an easy read, but it is a thought provoking one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic of the genre 26 Jun 2007
The Friends of Eddie Coyle

This is a strange book. I was curious after hearing of its legendary reputation in the crime genre, but if you're new to Higgins, the density of the dialogue is disorienting at first. No run-of-the mill thriller, it could almost be a play, with the action unfolding almost entirely in reported speech. And speech among characters who lie to each other, too. Second or third readings are very well rewarded, however, and I agree with others who rate the book as classic to put alongside The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. To think that this was GVH's publishing debut, at aged thirty two, is pretty staggering and it stands up as an important novel in its own right.

It's a complex tale of a small-time crook and gun-runner, Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle', who is facing jail and is forced to give evidence to the FBI. His 'friends' are a host of criminals in the Boston underworld, not to mention the untrustworthy cops, all of whom are constantly betraying one another. Not a lot is spelled out overtly and the reader has to pay close attention to keep up. GVH always said in defence of his dialogue-heavy novels that the 'characters are telling you the story'.

Still, what dialogue! I don't know how authentic the Boston Irish patois really is, but Higgins had been a lawyer and no doubt got a lot from his clients first-hand. 'Gritty doesn't do justice to the downbeat, jaded atmosphere and GVH's classy street poetry. 'Cinema verite' reported speech: repetitions, non-sequiturs, truly as if you are eavesdropping on real wiretapped conversation. There's no showiness or phony melodrama, though the book's ending is genuinely scary.

The film of the book, directed by Peter Yates plays around with the story, as per usual in movies, but stays true to the seedy, world-weary atmosphere. Outstanding performance from Robert Mitchum in an anti-hero role, (except he is way too charismatic to play Eddie Fingers).

A must-read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Eddie's world is in a mess. His "friends" have smashed his hand in adesk drawer because he supplied a gun with a history to another crook;he's taken the rap for a little illciit transport of liquor, and hisattempt to turn informant to secure himself a shorter sentence seems tobe causing him at least as much trouble as his crimes did.As ever, Higgins' characters swim through the murky waters of the Bostonunderworld talking, talking, talking as they go - this is anotherclassic of dialogue and atmosphere. Short, sharp, punchy and colloquial,it's everything Higgins does best distilled into one near-perfect novel.pete
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top drawer 26 Jun 2009
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you buy this get ready for an extremely stylised novel. The whole story is told in dialogue. All dialogue is stated as 'said' and there are no adverbs to help you. At first this appears difficult and affected but very quickly your ear becomes attuned as you race along with this gripping story.

It is a sort of 'pure' crime novel stripped right back. No moral judgements, just a fatalistic what goes around comes around appplied equally to criminals ('the man'), police ('uncle') and lawyers. The dialogue is just about comprehensible to a UK reader which is good as there is virtually no description of the world outside the tight plot.

It's short and absolutely cracking; a one-sitting read. Normally the sight of such a heavily stylised novel would be a major distraction for me but this is the exception. As another reviewer has said this really does belong in the very top drawer - this author should be far more famous.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superbe roman du regretté G.V. Higgins, qui écrivait l'américain parlé dans toute sa richesse. A découvrir !
Published 22 days ago by jf defosse
1.0 out of 5 stars the friends of eddie coyle
I hated the whole book. It was supposed to be a thriller ---ugh! It was just full of swear words - horrible. I would not recommend it to anyone. Cheers Sheila
Published 14 months ago by S. J. Urquhart
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Clever
I did feel that this was a clever way of writing, essentially it is all dialogue. So you get little description, other than character thoughts and observations. Read more
Published 15 months ago by I Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it
A classic 70's crime thriller, which captured the mood of the time, but hasn't dated.

Read it. Read it now. Before Eddie Coyle comes to ask you why you haven't.....
Published 16 months ago by James Horner
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Noir Novel
Given prominence in the Guardian's crime novel section of '1000 novels everyone must read'. No heroes, few sympathetic characters - classic noir.
Published 16 months ago by Fossil101
5.0 out of 5 stars Dialogue so realistic, you could be there!
A classic novel that I had to read, as a new novelist (my latest: Deadly Intrigue). I read this book because I'd seen it referred to so often by other writers, in terms of the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by mmnovelist
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
For me this was more a book to admire than to love. It tells the story almost entirely in dialogue. It is a great achievement. Read more
Published 18 months ago by The Emperor
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I read this book fast. Put it down and thought; 'wow'.
If you enjoy the like of Elmore Leonard, you're going to like this...
Published 18 months ago by Mr M Gee
3.0 out of 5 stars A look into the 1970s
This book has received fantastic reviews, not the least from Dennis Lehane who wrote the introduction. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Strv 74
4.0 out of 5 stars Different
I have read a fair few crime books recently concerning the Irish American underworld and none are quite like this one. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by Mackey
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