Book Review - The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins


Too many people get lost along the way with a good crime novel is. Or even just a crime story in general. I think that's because there's an over abundance of police-procedural shows on television. And that's all most people get exposed to. Or maybe they pick up a John Grisham or (even worse, no offense) a James Patterson book, which are non-stop plot times infinity.

This is the version that Raylan gives Tim. 

A good crime story, one with criminals leading the way, so rarely goes the way of the bing-bang-boom, plot-by-numbers plots that the police procedural shows do. And why would they? The cops need to get off their ass, follow those leads, interrogate the suspects, and solve the damn thing. The criminals just don't want to get caught, so they hustle, lay low, and lie. 

Unfortunately, for Eddie Coyle, he already was caught. An underworld gun-running lifer, Coyle got pinched running booze up in New Hampshire in a hot truck and faces sentencing for that case in a few weeks. Unless, of course, he gives up the goods on something big. Or so he's lead to believe by ATF Agent Foley. Coyle, a low-level gunrunner with an extra set of knuckles on his left hand thanks to the syndicate not being happy with his past work and just happening to have had an open desk drawer for Coyle's hand to rest in. 

Meanwhile, Coyle has his gun source, Jackie Brown (gee, I wonder who was influenced by this novel), who is also supplying M-16s to a crew of increasing active bank robbers, all while Foley has another source of intel, unknown to anyone else, of all the goings-on in the Boston underworld.

The way the story plays itself out is nearly Shakespearean in its final tragedy. Much is made of the dialogue in the novel, so I won't go on and on about how good it is, but really, it's as a good as you'll read.

That's something you hear a lot of: "The dialogue was so good, dude. I mean, like, bro, good." What does that actually mean beyond perhaps getting book recommendations from someone other than the anonymous person quoted? To have great dialogue, every line of it has to do at accomplish at least one of three things -- establish character, move the story forward, or create atmosphere. Nearly every line dialogue here does at least two of those, and more often than not, all three at the same time.

But don't think this is just a stage play masked as a novel. Not at all. The first bank robbing sequence is as good of an action scene as you'll find in any work of fiction, crime or otherwise. 

And should you need any other endorsement, it's the book that Raylan Givens tosses over to Tim as he cleans out his desk in the final episode of Justified. A fitting gesture as Elmore Leonard called the novel the best crime novel ever written. 

Oh man, this is a good one. This is what good crime writing is. 

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by Goerge V. Higgins -- 5 out of 5 smashed knuckles.

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