I came to this party late. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a crime novel written by George V. Higgins and published in 1970. I didn’t read it then. It was on a tertiary reading list in my college American Literature class, I didn’t read it then. Two of my favorite crime authors, Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane count it as a masterpiece and a major influence on their work, I still didn’t read it. Not until until I heard chef/author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain say that he has been obsessed with this book for years did I finally give in to its power.
The power of this short, tight, taunt, tough novel is the narrative movement. It is moved by dialogue. I would guess that 85% of the book is pure dialogue. Beautifully written words unique to a tough Boston and unique to each individual character. I cannot remember any novel where the flow of the story and the places it goes are all captained by speaking.
The story is a standard crime drama, cops and robbers blurred by the lines they cross, heists, murder and betrayal. But it’s not the story that matters, what matters is how it is told.
If you are interested in the art of writing, if you are enthralled by words and how they create voice, if you are thrilled to read a master at work, I cannot recommend The Friends of Eddie Coyle high enough. I know that I will visit them many more times, they are that important.