The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gun runner Eddie Coyle is facing jail time for some hijacked booze. While trying to procure some guns for a friend of his for a string of bank robberies, Coyle decides to drop a dime on the man he's buying from. But will that be enough? And what will happen to Eddie once people hear he's a fink?
Elmore Leonard called this the best crime novel ever written. Dennis Lehane called it a game changer. Raylan Givens even mentioned it on an episode of Justified. I figured I should give it a read.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a lot more challenging than you'd think a slim crime novel would be. It's mostly dialogue and a lot is left up to the reader to figure out. However, it's also clearly the spiritual ancestor of a lot of crime novels that came after. I was immediately reminded of the works of Elmore Leonard and Richard Stark, and the Boston setting reminded me of Lehane's work set in Bean Town.
Speaking of his friends, they're more like co-workers in that most of the characters are criminals, including Eddie. Even the cops are kind of shady. I wasn't sure who was lying to who for a great portion of the book.
Eddie's a conflicted character, not wanting to be a rat exactly but also not wanting to go jail. Even though he got what he deserved in the end, I still felt a little sorry for him.
Higgins' punchy dialogue is the star of the show. It holds up to the standards of today's crime fiction and probably inspired a lot of it, directly or indirectly.
The book's strength is also its weakness, however. Since it's mostly dialogue, it's hard to keep the characters straight at times and the only characters with any degree of substance are Eddie Coyle and Detective Foley.
I wouldn't say it's the greatest crime novel ever written but The Friends of Eddie Coyle is definitely worth your time. Four out of five stars.
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